Law and peace prize


EU LAW UPDATEIN A MOVE widely viewed as support for an institution in crisis, the EU has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012. The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognised that the EU is undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest, but said that it wished “to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”

On September 5th, the European Court delivered a long-awaited judgment, in the Y and Z cases (Joined Cases C-71/11, C-99/11), on the question of when an infringement of the freedom of religion will constitute an “act of persecution” sufficient to justify the granting of refugee status within the meaning of Directive 2004/83/EC.

The court held that what is required is a “severe violation” of the freedom, which can arise where the individual, when exercising the freedom in his own country, runs a genuine risk of, for example, being prosecuted or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

On September 12th the Court of Justice heard oral submissions in the case of Sweetman v An Bord Pleanála (case C-258/11).

Mr Sweetman had objected to the decision of An Bord Pleanála to authorise construction of the Galway City outer bypass. Part of this road crosses limestone pavement, a protected habitat in EU law.

The Supreme Court referred the case to the Court of Justice for guidance on the meaning of the term “adversely affects the integrity” in respect of a protected site.

In two judgments delivered on October 4th (cases C-22/11 and C-321/11), the Court of Justice confirmed that the right to compensation, pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, for passengers denied boarding when departing from or flying to an airport in an EU member state applies not only in cases of overbooked flights, but also when passengers are denied boarding on other grounds, including delayed flights which are the fault of the airline and some delays arising from strikes.

Also on October 4th, the court issued a judgment in a case (C-629/11 P) addressing the adequacy of information given to those who are unsuccessful in public procurement processes.

Although the case addressed the rules applicable to procurement by EU institutions, it has relevance for procurement by national entities.

The court confirmed that information disclosed by the Commission (which included the names of successful bidders, extracts from evaluation reports, the number of points achieved for each award criterion broken down by sub-criteria and the weighting of each sub-criteria in the overall evaluation and comments of the committee on the sub-criteria) was sufficient to enable the disappointed tenderer to identify the characteristics and relative advantages of the best ranked offer and identify the criteria they fell down on.

Joanne Finn and Catherine Donnelly are committee members of the Irish Society for European Law