| THE COMPUTER SAID NO
A German bank fined 300,000 euros after a lack of transparency about the automated rejection of a credit card application.
A Berlin based bank offered a credit card on their website. Using an online form, the bank requested various data about the applicant’s income, occupation, and personal details. Based on the information requested and additional data from external sources, the bank’s algorithm rejected the customer’s application without any justification. The algorithm is based on criteria and rules previously defined by the bank. Since the client had a good credit rating and a regular high income, he refuted the automated rejection and complained to the Berlin data protection commissioner.
Even when the complainant requested an explanation, the bank only provided blanket information about the computerised procedure, detached from the individual case. However, it refused to tell him why it assumed a poor creditworthiness in his case. The complainant was thus unable to understand which data basis and factors formed the basis of the automated rejection and on the basis of which criteria his credit card application had been rejected accordingly.
Without this individual case justification, however, it was also not possible for him to meaningfully challenge the automated individual decision.
A bank is obliged to inform its customers about the main reasons for a rejection when making an automated decision on a credit card application. This includes concrete information on the data basis and the decision-making factors as well as the criteria for the rejection in the individual case. The Berlin DPA found that the bank had violated Article 22(3), Article 5(1)(a) and Article 15(1)(h) GDPR in the specific case. In imposing the fine, the Berlin DPA took into account in particular the high turnover of the bank and the intentional design of the application process and the information.
| THE PARTHENON MARBLES WILL NOT RETURN TO GREECE
It seems like Rishi Sunak’s government has finally decided not to return the Parthenon’s Marbles Back to Greece.
When Pope Francis decided to return to the head of the Greek Orthodox Church the Archbishop of Athens Hieronymus II all of Greece three fragments of the Parthenon that have been on display in the Vatican since several decades, the the Greek government was hoping that the Parthenon Sculptures, on display at the British Museum, would also be returned to their homeland.
A formal request for the permanent return to Greece of all of the Parthenon Sculptures in the Museum’s collection was first made in 1983. There have been various meetings and discussions since then.
In March 2022, the president of the British Museum in London declared that he was open to an agreement to share the Parthenon Marbles with Greece. For Greece there was only one option: a permanent return of the sculptures to their homeland.
“We repeat, once again, our country’s firm position that it does not recognize the British Museum’s jurisdiction, possession and ownership of the sculptures, as they are the product of theft”, the Greek Ministry of Culture said.
For UK Prime Minister Sunak ““The Elgin Marbles are the country’s great asset” adding “We share their treasures with the world, and the world comes to the UK to see them. The collection of The British Museum protects the law, and we have no plans to change it”
The Parthenon Sculptures are from Athens, Greece. When, in 1834, Athens was officially declared the capital of the newly established independent Greek State, most of the post-Roman period structures on the Acropolis were removed, to accommodate further archaeological exploration.
By the early 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had been the governing authority in Athens for 350 years. Lord Elgin was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and successfully petitioned the authorities to be able to draw, measure and remove figures.
He was granted a permit (firman), and between 1801 and 1805 acting under the oversight of the relevant authorities, Elgin removed about half of the remaining sculptures from the ruins of the Parthenon. He also obtained permission to have removed sculptural and architectural elements from other buildings on the Acropolis, namely the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaia.
All of Elgin’s collection of antiquities was then transported to Britain. His actions were thoroughly investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal, prior to the sculptures entering the collection of the British Museum by Act of Parliament.
| EU DEFENCE SPENDING IN THE ECA’S SIGHTS
Adaptive camouflage, bullet-proof vests, laser systems: these were some of the projects funded as the EU used its common budget, for the first time in history, to support research and development in the defence industry. Our auditors found that expectations were only partially met.
Historically, European defence investment was mainly intergovernmental, but is now becoming more supranational. One important aim of the €90-million pilot programme for preparatory action on defence research (PADR) was to prepare the EU for a significant defence spending hike and pave the way for the €8-billion European Defence Fund (EDF).
The European Court of Auditors found that the EU still lacks a long-term strategy for defence spending. Such a strategy should aim to increase the presence of technology developed by the EDF in the EU defence sector, and strengthen the bloc’s technological and industrial defence base. As the EDF’s precursor, the PADR has yielded scant results so far, and there is no plan to make subsequent use of the results of research projects.
The auditors are currently looking into EU spending on military mobility. They will assess whether the EU’s action plan – which is a prerequisite for the bloc’s strategic autonomy – is on track to facilitate rapid and seamless military movements within and beyond the EU.
| JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
The cancellation of a flight due to the unexpected death of the co-pilot does not exempt the airline from its obligation to compensate passengers
Such a death, whilst tragic, does not amount to an ’extraordinary circumstance’ but is, like any unexpected illness which may affect a crew member whose presence is essential, inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the airline.
On 17 July 2019, TAP Portugal was to operate a flight at 6.05 from Stuttgart (Germany) to Lisbon (Portugal). On the same day, at 4.15, the co-pilot of the flight in question was found dead in his hotel bed. Shocked by that event, the whole crew declared itself unfit to fly so that the flight was cancelled. A replacement crew left Lisbon at 11.25 and arrived in Stuttgart at 15.20. Next, the passengers were transported to Lisbon on a replacement flight scheduled at
16.40. Certain passengers of the cancelled flight assigned their rights arising from that cancellation to companies which provide legal assistance to air passengers. TAP refused to pay those companies the compensation provided for in the Air Passengers Rights Regulation, 1 claiming that the unexpected death of the co-pilot was an extraordinary circumstance which exempts the air carrier from its obligation to pay compensation.
The Stuttgart Regional Court, before which the case was brought, asks the Court of Justice to interpret the Regulation.
By its judgment, the Court recalled that measures relating to the staff of the operating air carrier, such as those concerning crew planning and staff working hours, fall within the normal exercise of that carrier’s activities. Since the management of an unexpected absence, due to illness or death, of one or more members of staff whose presence is essential to the operation of a flight, including shortly before the departure of that flight, is intrinsically linked to the question of crew planning and staff working hours, such an absence is inherent in the
normal exercise of the operating air carrier’s activity and therefore does not fall within the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’. It follows that the air carrier is not exempted from its obligation to compensate passengers.
The Court points out that, however tragic and final it may be, the situation of an unexpected death is no different, from a legal point of view, from that in which a flight cannot be operated when such a member of staff has unexpectedly fallen ill shortly before the departure of the flight. Thus, it is the very absence and not the specific medical cause of that absence which constitutes an event inherent in the normal exercise of that carrier’s activity, with the result that the carrier must expect such unforeseen events to arise in the context of planning its crews and the working hours of its staff.
The Court adds that the fact that the crew member concerned had fully completed the regular medical examinations prescribed by the applicable legislation cannot call into question that conclusion since any person may, at any time, unexpectedly fall ill or die.
On those grounds, the Court (Third Chamber) ruled:
Article 5(3) of Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91, must be interpreted as meaning that the unexpected absence – due to illness or death of a crew member whose presence is essential to the operation of a flight – which occurred shortly before the scheduled departure of that flight, does not fall within the concept of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ within the meaning of that provision.
| EU SANCTIONS: COUNCIL FINALISES POSITION ON LAW THAT ALIGNS PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS
The Council today settled on its negotiating position (general approach) for an EU law which introduces criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU sanctions. This directive, when adopted, will be an important tool to ensure that violating sanctions does not pay off.
Sanctions are one crucial tool in the EU support of Ukraine and its fight against the Russian illegal aggression. This new law will make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish the breaking of sanction measures throughout the EU.
The draft law defines the conduct member states will need to criminalise. Actions which member states will label as criminal offences include: helping persons subject to Union restrictive measures to bypass an EU travel ban, trading sanctioned goods and running transactions with states or entities which are hit by EU restrictive measures.
The Council also wants member states to ensure that violating EU sanctions is punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. The draft directive foresees penalties to vary depending on the offence.
Member states will also have to update their national laws so that aggravating circumstances are taken into account when determining the penalty. An aggravating circumstance for instance would be that the offence is committed in the framework of a criminal organisation or by a public official.
Member states should also step up their efforts to make sure that EU sanctions are respected. For that they will be obliged to provide for a limitation period that allows for proper law enforcement. Member states also need to take measures to freeze and confiscate the proceeds from violating sanctions.
EU countries will furthermore be required to guarantee cooperation and coordination between its various law enforcement and judicial authorities. Cooperation on criminal investigations into sanction violation will also happen at European level – between member states, the Commission and EU agencies such as Europol or the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Background and next steps
Restrictive measures are an important component of the EU’s foreign and security policy toolbox. They can consist of for instance asset freezes, travel bans and import/export restrictions.
The enforcement of EU sanctions is a member state responsibility. But the types and levels of penalties in member states can vary because – so far – national systems that deal with the violation of EU sanctions differ significantly. Currently, member states are not required to criminalise violations and may thus apply administrative sanctions instead, and maximum criminal penalties range from 2 to 12 years of imprisonment.
In order to limit sanctions circumvention and tighten their enforcement, the Commission – on 5 December 2022 – proposed the present draft directive on the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of Union restrictive measures.
The general approach agreed on today is the basis for negotiations with the European Parliament to reach a common position on the draft law.
| HUNGARY: ANTI-CORRUPTION GROUP CALLS FOR MEASURES TO PREVENT CORRUPTION IN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), in a new report, calls for determined measures to prevent corruption in Hungary in respect of persons with top executive functions, including the Prime Minister, ministers, commissioners, political state secretaries, political advisers, the Prime Minister’s agents, as well as members of the Hungarian National Police and of the National Protective Service (NPS). (see also report in French and Hungarian: unofficial translations as provided by the authorities of Hungary).
In its evaluation report, GRECO notes that a common and general feature of public administration and law enforcement agencies in Hungary is that most integrity and corruption prevention measures target low and mid-level officials. The integrity framework applicable to persons with top executive functions is very weak and the conditions for the appointment of senior managers in the Police and the NPS carry risks of politicisation.
GRECO notes that persons with top executive functions are not subject to a code of conduct, to awareness-raising and confidential counselling on integrity, to rules on lobbying or the acceptance of gifts and invitations, nor to rules on post-employment restrictions. The anti-corruption strategies and action plans do not cover these persons. Their assets declarations are not filed in electronic format, which greatly limits their exploitability. Only declarations by senior political leaders are public and the verification of declarations is clearly insufficient. GRECO calls for all these gaps to be addressed as a matter of priority.
GRECO also notes a lack of transparency around the composition of ministerial cabinets and the role and remuneration of their members, the agendas and meetings of ministers and political advisers, the employment of the Prime Minister’s agents, persons with top executive functions’ salary system as well as more generally, increasing difficulties in accessing public information and exercising public participation in the legislative process.
The implementation of the recommendations addressed to Hungary will be assessed by GRECO in 2024 through its compliance procedure.
| ASL GROUP DOUBLES DOWN ON SUSTAINABLE AIR MOBILITY, SIGNS AGREEMENT FOR DELIVERY OF SIX LILIUM PIONEER EDITION JETS
Lilium N.V. developer of the first all-electric vertical take-off and landing jet, has signed an agreement with Benelux-based business jet operator ASL Group for the delivery of six Lilium Pioneer Edition Jets. The agreement, which includes deposit payments to Lilium, converts an earlier Memorandum of Understanding between the two companies, disclosed last year during the Farnborough International Airshow.
ASL Group is a leading business jet operator in the Benelux and the owner of the first electric aircraft in Belgium. ASL Group intends to manage and operate the aircraft for its customers as part of a sustainable, high-speed network connecting major hubs across Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Western Germany.
Philippe Bodson, owner and CEO of ASL Group said: “Our company is constantly seeking new ways to operate responsibly and contribute to a healthy future, both socially and ecologically. The Lilium Jet is a great opportunity to provide better value to our customers in a sustainable way. With zero operating emissions, vertical take-off landing capability, and a spacious premium cabin, Lilium represents the best option on the market.”
Klaus Roewe, CEO of Lilium said: “The conversion of our MOU with ASL shows the strength of our continued partnership. ASL Group is a truly innovative company with a vision to provide the best services for its customers. With the highest population density in Europe, Benelux represents a perfect use case for the Lilium Jet, with its expected high aerodynamic performance and low noise profile. We are proud to support ASL’s development in the region.”
| CENTRAL EUROPE DEFENSE CONFERENCE ALIGNS ALLIES, STRENGTHENS RELATIONSHIPS
U.S. Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. European Command, co-hosted the two-day 2023 Chiefs of Defense Conference alongside Romanian Gen. Daniel Petrescu, Romanian Chief of Defense Staff, in Bucharest, Romania, from June 8-9, 2023.
The event drew representatives from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, in addition to National Guard leadership from Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. Seven of the eight European nations in attendance are original members of the State Partnership Program and are celebrating 30 years of partnership.
Cavoli thanked Petrescu and the Romanian Armed Forces for their contributions to collective defense. “You host U.S. and NATO forces, and you do so much in the larger effort to deter Russian aggression,” said Cavoli.
Cavoli also lauded Romanian Armed Forces’ leadership in this year’s DEFENDER exercise series, consisting of three linked training exercises with Saber Guardian as its third and final training event.
“They are leading tactical employment in combined military training events to include joint forcible entry and wet gap crossings,” added Cavoli. “This combined training in Saber Guardian makes the alliance stronger, and demonstrates the speed and effectiveness of our deployable forces.”
During the event, leaders discussed logistics and support to Ukraine, combined operations, and intelligence sharing. It also provided a venue for leaders to strengthen military-to-military relationships toward solving complex, regional challenges.
Petrescu emphasized that the Bucharest meeting aimed to achieve a harmonized military approach on the Eastern flank, as part of the allied defensive thinking, which will be finalized at the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July.
“The Black Sea region is an area of strategic interest for NATO. The consistent presence of Allied structures, especially American ones and countries like Romania with close proximity to the war contributes to the success that deterrence plays in a security equation,” said Petrescu.
Regularly hosted by Allies throughout Europe, Chiefs of Defense conferences are a key component of EUCOM’s comprehensive approach to regional security. Through continuous engagement, EUCOM and its Allies foster enduring partnerships and strengthening cooperation among Allied nations.
| OLAF INVESTIGATIONS UNCOVER OVER €600 MILLION AFFECTED BY FRAUD AND IRREGULARITIES
- In 2022 the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) protected €600 million of EU taxpayers’ money by recommending the recovery of over €426 million to the EU budget from fraud and irregularities, and by safeguarding a further €200 million. OLAF also stopped a number of smuggling, counterfeiting and customs fraud schemes, helped enforce EU trade defence measures, and continued to devise policies to prevent and counter evolving fraud patterns. As every year, OLAF also investigated suspicions of misconduct by staff and members of EU institutions. In total, OLAF concluded over 250 cases last year.The OLAF Report 2022 published today provides insight into the main trends and operations last year, ranging from the fight against counterfeiting and smuggling to the protection of EU funds – including the Recovery and Resilience Facility – and fraud prevention mechanisms to protect EU financial assistance for Ukraine. For the first time, the report is presented in an interactive virtual format.
OLAF Director-General Ville Itälä emphasised: “OLAF’s accumulated knowledge, expertise and operations provide tangible results – we protect both the EU budget and EU citizens. The protection of EU taxpayers’ money for infrastructure and digitalisation, the seizure of 531 million illicitly traded cigarettes, an international action against adulterated honey, and the recovery of almost €3 billion to the EU budget from a customs undervaluation case are just a few examples of the spectrum of OLAF’s impact.
Prevention remains the most effective tool to tackle fraud. OLAF strives to ensure that the EU’s financial assistance and investments in Member States and third countries are spent as intended. We strongly believe that cooperation is key to our success and in 2022 OLAF has intensified its engagement with national authorities, international organisations and EU partners. OLAF’s ability to join the dots for multiple players and to provide the bigger picture remains our unique and distinguishing quality that adds value to the fight against fraud in the European Union and beyond.”
OLAF’S investigative performance in 2022:
- OLAF concluded 256 investigations, issuing 275 recommendations to the relevant national and EU authorities.
- OLAF recommended the recovery of €426.8 million to the EU budget, and prevented the undue spending of €197.9 million.
- OLAF opened 192 new investigations, following 1,017 preliminary analyses carried out by OLAF experts.
- OLAF reported 71 cases with possible criminal offences to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), 16 of which on behalf of the European Commission.
| FOURTEEN STOLEN CULTURAL ARTEFACTS RETURN TO ITALY WITH EUROJUST SUPPORT
The ancient artefacts, of considerable economic and cultural value, had been stolen from museums in Italy or illegally excavated and smuggled into Bavaria in Germany. The seizure and final handover of the cultural goods is the result of the cooperation between the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (Italy), the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (BLKA) in Munich (Germany), and the respective Ministries of Culture. Eurojust provided legal assistance to the authorities involved and facilitated the conclusion of the agreement.
The handover took place on 5 June at the headquarters of the Operational Department of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, ‘La Marmora’, in Rome, between the Commander Brigadier General, Vincenzo Molinese, and the Police Vice-President of the BLKA, Guido Limmer. The ceremony was attended by representatives of the German and Italian National Desks at Eurojust, as well as members of the German police and the German Federal Ministry of Culture.
The cultural assets recovered include an Attic black-figure kylix, from 540-530 BC; a Corinthian bronze helmet from the 4th century BC; several Roman bronze coins (68 BC – 3rd century BC); four gold coins of Valentinian II from the mint of Trier, era 367-385 AD; and an ivory box dated to the late Middle Ages.
The coins and the medieval box were all stolen from two different Italian museums located in Parma and Milan. Eurojust, through its Italian and German National Desks, provided advisory support to the national authorities involved to facilitate the seizure and return of these cultural assets. A coordination meeting was hosted by the Agency to find solutions to the legal problems related to the different national laws.
| APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR THE SESAR YOUNG SCIENTIST AWARD 2023
Are you a young scientist active in the field of air traffic management (ATM) and aviation? Are you looking for the perfect opportunity to showcase your talent and advance your career? If yes, then look no further… the SESAR Young Scientist Award is for you!
The SESAR Young Scientist Award recognises young scientists, who have demonstrated excellence in ATM and aviation-related research fields. The award also provides researchers starting out in their career with an opportunity for further professional development.
A further objective of the award is to showcase the potential of young talent to formulate fresh ideas and solutions to the challenges facing ATM and aviation.
The 2023 edition of the award has widened its scope from previous years and is now open to two categories:
- PhD scientists; with the chance to receive a prize of EUR 5 000
- Undergraduate or Master students; with the chance to win a prize of EUR 1 500
Contributions are welcome from citizens or residents in an EU Member State or an Associated Country to the Horizon Europe Research and Development Framework Programme (Horizon Europe).
Up to three short-listed candidates for each category will be invited to join the SESAR Innovation Days 2023 from 27-30 November in Sevilla, where the winner of each category will be publicly announced during a dedicated ceremony.
Contest rules and how to apply?
If you wish to apply for this Award, please:
The deadline for applications is 8 September 2023, 24.00 CET