Some thoughts on the ECJ hearing on the Draft EU-ECHR Accession Agreement (Part 2 of 2)

I was in Luxembourg 5-6 May 2014, attending the hearing at the European Court of Justice concerning the Draft Agreement for the Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. In these two posts (click here for part 1) I summarize the main arguments presented at the hearing, and provide some initial analysis and thoughts. Finally, I would not be a lawyer if I did not point out that some caveats apply: I am writing based on my own notes and recollection, and thus there might be inaccuracies, omissions and misattributions. If you come across any, feel free to point them out in the comments section below. I would also greatly appreciate any other comments or thoughts you might have in relation to this case.

The second and final day of oral argument at the ECJ in the case concerning the validity of the Draft Agreement for the Accession of the EU to the ECHR (hereinafter: the DAA) focused on the questions put to the parties by the judges yesterday. Those questions are summarized at the end of yesterday’s blog post. Moreover, some of the judges, as well as the Advocate General, asked further questions towards the end of the hearing.

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Some thoughts on the ECJ hearing on the Draft EU-ECHR accession agreement (Part 1 of 2)

I was in Luxembourg 5-6 May 2014, attending the hearing at the European Court of Justice concerning the Draft Agreement for the Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. In these two posts (click here for part 2) I summarize the main arguments presented at the hearing, and provide some initial analysis and thoughts. Finally, I would not be a lawyer if I did not point out that some caveats apply: I am writing based on my own notes and recollection, and thus there might be inaccuracies, omissions and misattributions. If you come across any, feel free to point them out in the comments section below. I would also greatly appreciate any other comments or thoughts you might have in relation to this case.

Monday May 5th was the opening day for the case concerning the Draft Agreement for the Accession of the EU to the European Convention of Human Rights (hereinafter: the DAA). The case is brought under the procedure provided for in TFEU article 218(11) by the Commission, which is asking the European Court of Justice (ECJ) the question of whether the DAA is compatible with the constituent treaties of the European Union. Much could be (and has been) written about this question, this case, and the spectacle that is an ECJ hearing before the full court. In these couple of posts I will, however, focus on the submissions of the parties. I will give you what I perceived as the highlights of the hearing, and provide some initial commentary.
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Pensumrelevant artikkel: den internasjonale rettens påvirkning på norsk rett

Studentmagasine Pacta kontaktet meg for noen uker siden, da de ønsket en artikkel om folkerettens innvirkning på norsk rett — et tema som er meget pensumrelevant for studenter på andre studieår. Resultatet finner du i siste nummer av Pacta (nr. 23), og på SSRN.

Iran har en «umistelig rett» til å anrike uran

Har Iran har en rett til å anrike uran eller ikke? Dette er en av de store uløste spørsmålene i de pågående forhandlingene mellom Iran, på den ene side, og vetomaktene i FNs sikkerhetsråd samt Tyskland, på den annen side.

Et juridisk spørsmål
USA har som sitt klare utgangspunkt at ingen land ut over de som i dag har atomprogrammer har rett til å anrike uran. Iran mener på sin side at alle land har en slik rett. Vi står her altså overfor en uenighet om et juridisk spørsmål. Et spørsmål om stater har rett til å anrike uran, eller om de ikke har noen slik rett.

Den folkerettslige hovedregelen er at statene er suverene innenfor eget territorium. Overført på den konkrete saken betyr dette at alle stater i verden (også Iran) som utgangspunkt står fritt til å anrike uran. Unntak fra dette utgangspunktet må skje ved positiv folkerett, for eksempel ved traktat.

Stormaktenes forvridde utgangspunkt
Med dette utgangspunktet klarlagt kan vi ta for oss stormaktenes argumentasjon. USA påstår at the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), som Iran og 189 av verdens øvrige stater er part til, ikke gir Iran noen rett til å anrike uran.

Merk hvordan dette spørsmålet er stilt på helt gal måte. Utgangspunktet er, som vi har sett, at Iran har rett til å anrike uran. Det avgjørende er altså ikke om NPT artikkel IV gir dem en slik rett. Om NPT ikke skulle gi Iran rett til anrikning, så er det helt uproblematisk: Iran har allerede denne retten.

Om USA skal finne støtte sin påstand om manglende rett på anrikning i NPT må det i så fall være i form av et forbud. Altså at NPT innebærer et innhugg i Irans rett til å anrike uran – et unntak fra hovedregelen.

NPT forplikter alle partene (inkludert Iran) til å unnlate å bidra til spredning av atomvåpen. Her er artikkel IV interessant, fordi den slår fast at NPT ikke skal være til hinder for statenes «inalienable right» (umistelige rett) til å forske på, produsere, og bruke atomenergi for fredelige formål. Samtidig forbyr NPT artikkel I og II andre stater enn de nåværende atommaktene å anskaffe eller produsere atomvåpen.

Samlet må dette innebære en rett til å anrike uran i den grad der er nødvendig for produksjon av atomenergi. Den politisk, men ikke rettslig bindende avtalen inngått mellom stormaktene og Iran i Geneve forrige helg synes også bekrefte dette, da den åpner for at Iran kan anrike uran til en grad som er tilstrekkelig for fredelig bruk i atomkraftverk.

Når det er sagt, så er det et poeng at Irans rett til anrikning kan være tilsidesatt av resolusjoner fra FNs sikkerhetsråd. Disse er i henhold til FN-charteret artikkel 25 bindende for alle FNs medlemsstater,og går i følge artikkel 103 foran andre folkerettslige regler.

Sikkerhetsrådet har i en rekke resolusjoner fordømt Irans atomprogram, og iverksatt sanksjoner. Men disse sanksjonene er av en midlertidig karakter. De har blitt iverksatt hovedsakelig på grunn av Irans manglende respekt for internasjonale regler om inspeksjon av atomanlegg. Om Iran overholder disse reglene i fremtiden vil sanksjonene måtte oppheves.

Juridisk spørsmål – rettslig avgjørelse?
Siden spørsmålet om rett til anrikning er rent juridisk kan det tenkes løst via fredelige, rettslige tvisteløsningsmekanismer. FNs Generalforsamling kunne for eksempel anmodet ICJ, den internasjonale domstolen i Haag, om en rådgivende (men autoritativ) uttalelse om hvor vidt stater har en rett til anrike uran, NPT tatt i betraktning.

Dette krever imidlertid et flertallsvedtak i FNs generalforsamling. Men, siden jussen ser ut til å være på Irans side, synes det ikke å være i stormaktenes interesser å anmode ICJ om en rådgivende uttalelse. Det vil også være vanskelig for Iran å skaffe flertall for en slik anmodning. Dessuten kan det tenkes at Iran ikke vil ta den risikoen for tap som alltid er til stede ved en rettslig prosess.

Grunnlag for et varig kompromiss?
Begge parter ser det med andre ord som mest fornuftig å beholde kontroll over konflikten og fortsette forhandlingene. Samtidig synes begge parter å opprettholde sine uforenelige standpunkter.

Utfordringen i forhandlingene blir å finne et kompromiss som verken anerkjenner eller underkjenner Irans rett til å anrike uran. Om et slikt kompromiss skulle finnes, er det langt fra klart at det vil kunne være varig. Et kompromiss vil skyve den manglende enigheten under teppet for nå, men faren er stor for at tvisten vil blusse opp igjen på et senere tidspunkt.

Om en varig løsning skal oppnås bør stormaktene innrømme det åpenbare: Iran har en «umistelig rett» til å anrike uran for fredelige formål. Innrømmelsen trenger ikke komme gratis: bruk den som en brekkstang for å få inn strenge begrensninger og kontrolltiltak i en endelig avtale. Slik vil man kunne oppnå det samme som man realistisk kan forvente av et slikt umulig kompromiss som skissert i forrige avsnitt, men antagelig i en mer robust og varig form.

Panel debate: The EU and the USA – A Trade Agreement?

Today I participated in a panel debate on the topic of the forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty that is currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA. The video stream from the panel debate may be viewed right here (the first couple of minutes of the video are in Norwegian, but the panel debate itself is in English):


Panel participants

  • William R.Taliaferro – Deputy Counselor for Political & Economic Affairs, Embassy of the USA to Norway
  • Martin Skylv -  EU delegation to Norway
  • Anne Louise Aartun Bye – Senior adviser, Internationaliztion and European politics, Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO)
  • Stian Øby Johansen – PhD fellow at the UiO Centre for European Law

Simple mathematics indicate that the ECtHR could drain its overflowed docket in 8 years

ImageOn June 30, 2011 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had a grand total of 152,800 applications pending before it. By March 31, 2013 this number had been reduced by over 30,000 applications in one and a half year – to a total of 122,450 pending applications. This astonishing development proves that the recently implemented Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, and the restructuring of the ECtHR’s registry, is in fact working.

If the ECtHR can keep this pace up, simple mathematics implies that it will have cleaned out its docket by 2021. Or maybe even before that, considering the fact that the number of new applications is slowly decreasing. This suggests that any further attempts at increasing its efficiency or reduce its current caseload should be of a temporary nature, as the ECtHR would been able to cope well if its docket was not already flooded when reforms could finally be put in place.

The big question is, however, whether one can apply such simple mathematics. Protocol 14 aims mostly to squash and filter out the most glaringly inadmissible applications. Apparently, the registry of the ECtHR was reorganized with the same goal in mind. If the 30,000 applications thrown out in the last year and a half are mainly those that are clearly inadmissible, the numbers may be skewed. Throwing out clearly inadmissible cases requires much less resources than deciding admissible cases on the merits.

It therefore remains to be seen whether the simple mathematics stated in my rather provocative header are an accurate prediction of things to come. My gut feeling is that simple mathematics are inadequate. To find a more accurate answer I think that we need a study of the composition of inadmissible/admissible cases of those 30,000 removed from the docket the last year and a half. This must then be compared with the expected composition of admissible/inadmissible cases before the ECtHR in total.

(If anyone knows of such studies, or relevant and available data, please give me a heads up in the comments.)

Draft EU-ECHR Accession Agreement finalized

As reported by news agencies just before the weekend, the European Union and the 47 member states of the Council of Europe has just agreed on draft legal instruments that enable the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights – after almost three years of negotiations. Antonie Buyse over at the ECHRblog has written a good and concise post on the topic already, which I recommend that anyone with an interest in the process should read.

While it was common knowledge that the negotiations were on the final stretch, at least I would not have expected that the final instruments would be ready before at least the next meeting of the delegations. That the delegations were able to solve all the outstanding issues this quickly must be seen as a positive sign, and suggests that the remaining obstacles will not render this agreement moot.

As Antonie Buyse mentioned in the above-mentioned post at ECHRblog, three main hurdles remain. First, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will be asked to give its opinion on whether the draft instruments are compatible with EU law. If the ECJ finds that the draft Accession Agreement is incompatible with EU law, it has the power under TFEU article 218 (11) to forbid the EU institutions and the EU member states from entering into the agreement. However, most experts consider it unlikely that the ECJ will reject the Accession Agreement.

Secondly, a formal decision to sign the instruments and accede to the ECHR must be made by the Council of the European Union, after obtaining consent from the European Parliament, see TFEU article 218 (6)(a)(ii). Since the Council consists of 27 of the states that participated in the drafting of the Accession Agreement, there seems to be little risk of them blocking a decision. The European Parliament is also generally in favor of acceding to the ECHR. It is thus difficult to see that they would try and block the process.

Thirdly, the signature and ratification by all 47 member states of the Council of Europe + the EU itself is needed before the Accession Agreement enters into force. 27 of these 47 states are EU members, and will be bound to sign and ratify the agreement upon the above-mentioned decision in the EU Council. The EU will also be bound to sign according to the same decision. As for the 20 remaining CoE states it will be more interesting to see whether they will cooperate, whether they intend to block the process, or even block it. Russia did, for instance, refuse to ratify protocol 14 to the ECHR for years and years.

Only after going through all these loops, the Accession Agreement will enter into force, and from that day the EU will formally become the 48th party to the European Convention on Human Rights.