2014/07/25

Harmonization of Moldovan legislation with European law – new challenges for Moldovan lawyers.

The original version of this article had been posted in Russian before the Association Agreement between Moldova and EU was signed (it had only been initialled by then and made available online for anyone interested), so the references in the text are made to the draft Agreement. Now, after it has been signed and only awaits its ratification by EU states to become effective, all conclusions made in the article still remain fully valid.

Introduction

In the recent time period there has been active process of harmonization of the local law with legislation of the European Union taking place in the Republic of Moldova. Given the general political vector towards integration with the EU, such process is quite understandable.

During the last several years there were many legislative acts adopted in Moldova transposing into Moldovan law the norms existing in the European Union. However, besides the process of approximation of legislation that takes place, there arises the problem of further enforcement of respective laws. And here we are faced with a number of practical challenges which many Moldovan lawyers are probably not yet ready to respond to.

The existence of a particular legal rule or law as such does not give anything. Every jurist knows that the law starts functioning when public authorities and courts actually start applying it in a particular way by. And the enforcement of legal norms depends on how they are interpreted (it is a well-known fact that one and the same rule can sometimes be interpreted in completely opposite ways). And depending on how they will interpret and enforce those new legal rules in Moldovan law, it will determine how feasible the whole process of approximation of the legal systems is going to be.  

The necessity of uniform enforcement of EU law and the respective implications for Moldova

There is huge amount of legislation adopted in the European Union that is binding on all country-members. Therefore, the crucial condition for the effective implementation of all those legal norms is the ensuring of their uniform enforcement in all EU countries. To put it simply, the same regulation or directive of the European Union shall be enforced in the same manner both in Italy and in the UK. Otherwise the whole point of having common rules is lost.

Now let's turn to Moldova. There was an ongoing process of approximating Moldovan legislation to the European ones in the recent years. And it is important to notice that it was not just about adopting in Moldova legal provisions similar to EU's. We actually speak about implementing EU legislation in our country.
There is plenty of evidence for that. First, in the very statutes adopted in our country by European models there are multiple references made to particular legislation of the European Union. And not only these references are made in the text, but it is stated outright that those statutes are adopted in order to implement particular EU legislation in Moldova.

Just a couple of examples from competition legislation. The preamble to the new Law on Competition (see the text in Romanian here) that was adopted in 2012 and became effective at the beginning of 2013 says openly that it “transposes the provisions of articles 101–106 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union of 25 March 1957, the EU Council's Regulation (СЕ) No 1/2003 of 16 December 2002 [...] and partly the EU Council's Regulation (СЕ) No 139/2004 of 20 January 2004 [...]”

In the end of August 2013 the Council for Competition adopted a number of regulations for the implementation and enforcement of the Law on Competition. We find analogous statements therein. For instance, the preamble to the Regulation on the assessment of verticalanti-competition agreements says that "the Regulation transposes the provisions of the Commission Regulation (ЕС) No 330/2010 of 20 April 2010 [...] and partly implements the Commission's Guidelines 2010/С 130/01 on Vertical Restraints [...], Commission's Guidelines on the application of article 81(3) of the Treaty 2004/С 101/108 [...], Communication of the Commission of 18 December 1978 [...].

Such examples are many. Most of the statutes adopted in Moldova in the recent years stipulate outright that they “create thenecessary base for the application” (the citation from the Law for the Protection of Trademarks) of certain pieces of legislation of the European Union.

But as we mentioned above, the implementation of European Union's norms also implies the uniform enforcement of those norms. In other words the authorities of the Republic of Moldova will have to ensure that the laws and other subordinate acts that we now adopt are applied in the same way as similar provisions are applied in the European Union.

And here we are faced with the problem that we shall not just implement the laws of the European Union, but also its case law, or the practice of their application. And that is a task much more challengeable than simply passing laws by European models. And we are not speaking here of the general problems of law enforcement and the rule of law in our country. That's a distinct problem calling for distinct solutions.

A significant problem lies in the fact that we will have to learn how to apply the European norms in the same way as they are applied in the EU. And for that we simply don't have enough specialists with deep knowledge of the European law. Specialized bodies and institutions (like, for example, the Council for Competition), I think, will cope with that task much faster. It is much easier to establish bilateral cooperation on their institutional level within which it is possible to provide respective training. And I suppose that there will be enough resources allocated for that purpose.

More serious problems can arise in Moldovan courts, as they will have to master vast amount of the established case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. And here we can expect significant difficulties.

The necessity to implement the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Moldova

The application of law involves first of all its interpretation. Before applying a particular legal rule we have to identify its meaning and essence. And that only seems easy at first glance. It is not without a reason that there exists a saying about two lawyers and three opinions. And that happens not because lawyers are masters of perverting the meaning of laws, but because almost any text, any phrase under a scrupulous reading can be interpreted differently. And when we speak about laws the task becomes even more difficult.

The exclusive power to interpret the norms of European law belongs to the Court of Justice of the European Union. It shall not be confused with the European Court of Human Rights which only considers the issues of violations of rights provided by the European Convention on Human Rights. The latter is the very court that issued so many judgments against Moldova and where one of the judges also comes from our country.

The Court of Justice of the European Union is only concerned with the interpretation and application of the law of the European Union. Moldova, not being a member-state of the EU, has nothing to do with that court. But following the tendency for implementing the norms of the EU we will have in the nearest future not just study, but actually implement the case law of this Court.

As it has already been mentioned, it is the Court of Justice of the EU that has the exclusive power to interpret the provisions of European law. Even more so, there is a special procedure in the EU, under which in situations when, while hearing a case, the national court of one of the EU member-states faces the necessity to interpret certain provisions of EU law, then the case is suspended at that that national court and referred to the European Court for the interpretation of the respective provisions. After the decision of the European Court the case is sent back to the national court which then passes its judgment on the merits.

For the period of its existence the EU Court of Justice adopted a vast number of decisions that to a great extent shaped the whole system of European law as it exists and applies today. Therefore, when implementing the norms of European law in Moldova, we will have to implement also the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Besides that there also exist the established practices of certain EU institutions, and above all the European Commission that takes decisions on the wide range of problems. Though its decisions do not have the same effect as the decisions of the Court of Justice, they play a huge role in understanding of how the EU rules are applied in practice. And the Moldovan public institutions and courts will also have to study and apply them in their activity.

Moldova's obligations under the Association Agreement with the European Union

We will have to do all the things said above. The confirmation that it will most probably become a legal obligation for the country we can find in a number of provisions of the Association Agreement with the European Union that is to be signed in the nearest future.

The obligation to harmonize Moldovan law with EU law is set forth in many provisions of the draft Agreement. The assessment of the process of approximation of Moldovan legislation to the Union law will be based, among other things, on how this legislation is going to be applied. This conclusion follows directly from the text of the draft Association Agreement. For example, article 409 par. 2 of the Draft directly provides that the European Union shall assess whether the legislation of the Republic of Moldova has been approximated to Union law and whether it is implemented and enforced effectively. Such assessment shall take into account the existence and operation of relevant infrastructure, bodies and procedures in Moldova necessary for the effective implementation and enforcement of Moldovan legislation.

Moreover, when assessing the approximation of legislation, it will also be taken into account whether there are any domestic provisions or practices that are inconsistent with European Union law (pars. 3 and 4 article 409 of the draft Agreement). Article 410 of the Draft also states that the Republic of Moldova shall undertake any action necessary to reflect the developments in Union law in its domestic law.

Moldova will have to report regularly on the progress of the process of implementing EU law in Moldova. Such reports should not be confined to providing just the information on the adopted laws. Under article 451 of the Draft Agreement the assessment of approximation may include on-the-spot missions, with the participation of EU institutions and respective experts.

Analogous provisions are frequent in the text of the Association Agreement in various contexts and aspects. Thus, the necessity of actually implementing the application practices or the case law is derived not only from the references to EU law in the texts of Moldovan laws, but also from direct obligations that Moldova is ready to undertake by signing the Association Agreement with the EU.  

Prospective difficulties in implementing European case law in Moldovan courts

The implementation of EU's case law in Moldovan courts, however, will inevitably stumble over the hurdles of technical and also of psychological nature.

First, we can hardly find sufficient number of judges qualified enough to deal with issues of European law, particularly in specialized areas, like competition law, for example. And it's not their fault. European law is something completely new to us, even despite the fact that general courses on EU law are taught for a long time in Moldovan universities.

Secondly, the application of EU norms will require familiarization with the vast body of case law of the EU Court of Justice. And not just simple familiarization, but its active application by Moldovan judges when hearing the cases. And that will inevitably cause some problems. For a number of reasons. We can give an example of how the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (whose decisions are obligatory for Moldova) is applied in Moldova. Many judges still react quite negatively when counsels while addressing the court cite ECtHR's cases. Even though the courts have to apply those cases. We can only make a guess at what the reaction of Moldovan judges will be to the parties trying more and more frequently to refer in their arguments to the cases decided by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The phrases of the type "We are not an EU country, so the European court is no authority for us" are not unlikely to be heard from the judges. And that is the problem of psychological nature that we will also have to overcome.

Thirdly, the implementation of European case law will require the approach that would be significantly different from the point of the legal technique. Unfortunately, the skills of Moldovan judges cannot be compared to those of the lawyers and judges in EU countries. This can be seen from how the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights are applied in Moldova. We can take and compare judgments issued by Moldovan judges and by the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, lack of clear structure and consistency in the reasons of the court, lack of internal logic are very characteristic of the judgments pronounced by Moldovan courts. Even in cases when they adopt just decisions it is sometimes very difficult to see and understand how they actually come to particular conclusions.

For successful implementation of European law in Moldova we will have to change not only the psychology, but also to learn the new skills and techniques that are not taught in our universities. And that refers not only to judges but also to lawyers, prosecutors and legal professionals.

I would suggest that lawyers (meaning members of the bar) will be in the most advanced position. Being in the situation of fierce competition with each other for the client, and then standing up for that client, they are those who are mostly interested in acquiring new skills and knowledge. Those lawyers who will not be able to adapt, will become less and less competitive.

Conclusions

To summarize what was said above, we can suggest that the full-scale implementation and application of Europena Law in Moldova is becoming an objective reality. Long before Moldova can become an EU candidate country (let alone its member).

This process will necessitate significant changes in approaches to the application of law. Moldovan judges and other public authorities will have to accept the fact that they will have to apply not only the rules existing in the EU, but also to follow its established case law, and above all the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. They will have to follow indirectly many of the decisions adopted by European institutions without yet being a member-state of the EU.

Without entering the debate over how this fact influences the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova, I would like to note that it will require significant revision of the approaches in the work of public authorities, courts and lawyers. Significant changes should also be introduced into the system of higher legal education in universities that should emphasize the importance of a deeper study of EU law and its enforcement.


In fact such process should have already started, given the declarations included into the new Moldovan laws. However, in the future, after the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, the full-scale implementation of such changes into the law enforcement practice will become the obligation for the Republic of Moldova. 

2014/07/14

Ce este dreptul concurentei si pentru ce ne trebuie?

M-am gandint mult de la ce tema sa incep acest blog. Sunt o multime de teme si probleme. Si toate sunt interesante. Unele sunt mai complexe si reprezinta interes numai pentru specialisti cu profil ingust. Altele sunt mai rasunatoare si pot prezenta interes si pentru un public mai larg. Si am decis, in cele din urma, sa incep cu o intrebare generala despre ce reprezina dreptul concurentei.

Acest site va fi dedicat nu numai dreptului concurential. Insa, ce este proprietatea intelectuala, este mai mult sau mai putin clar aproape pentru fiecare. De asemenea, toti inteleg ce inseamna Internet, tehnologii informationale si telecomunicatii (si respectiv, este cel putin evident ca exista si legislatia care reglementeaza aceste domenii). Iar ce reprezinta dreptul concurentei, mai ramane intrebare pentru multi. Importanta lui inca nu este clara nici pentru unii juristi.

Daca judecam dupa denumire – dreptul concurentei – putem face o concluzie, ca e vorba despre o ramura de drept care reglementeaza concurenta. Nu ne vom adanci in definitia complexa a notiunii “concurenta” care se regaseste in Legea concurentei. Nu trebuie sa fii specialist in drept sau economie ca sa intelegi ca acest cuvant inseamna rivalitate, competitie (de exemplu, cuvantul competition chiar se traduce din Engleza si ca concurenta, si ca competitie) dintre diferite firme, intreprinderi pe piata.

Respectiv, dreptul concurentei este un sistem de norme juridice care stipuleaza regulile de concurenta pe piata. Insa, apare intrebarea – de ce avem nevoie de aceste reguli? Cum pentru ce?” – puteti sa ma intrebati. Pentru ca concurenta sa fie protejata. Da de ce trebuie s-o protejam? Si de la cine? Sau de la ce?

Raspunsul la aceste intrebari nu este atat de usor cum pare la inceput. Exista diferite opinii (in primul rand, dintre economisti) privind rolul care trebuie acordat dreptului concurentei, cat de mare trebuie sa fie implicarea statului in activitatea intreprinderilor, si daca exista vreo necesitate pentru multiple interdictii si limitari stipulate in legislatia concurentiala.

De exemplu, adeptii asa numitei teorii laissez-faire, sau doctrinei de neinterventie, considera ca nu exista atat de mare necesitate pentru reguli si norme stricte, si indeamna a nu se implica in mecanisme de piata libera. Ei considera ca piata va ajusta singura toate deformarile sau abuzurile. Teoria aceasta, cat n-ar fi de frumoasa, insa nu prea functioneaza dupa modelul descris de savanti.

Unele reguli, ce tin de activitatea monopolurilor si prevenirea cartelurilor pe piata, au existat inca din timpurile antice. Insa, acest domeniu al dreptului a inceput cu adevarat a se dezvolta numai incepand cu sfarsitul sec. XIX. In anul 1890 in SUA a fost adoptata asa numita Lege a lui Sherman (Sherman Act) care a stat la baza dreptului contemporan al concurentei. La ziua de azi dreptul concurentei este una dintre cele mai importante ramuri de drept ce reglementeaza activitatea economica a intreprinderilor in majoritatea tarilor din lume. In Uniunea Europeana dreptul concurentei detine un rol central in sistemul de drept al UE.

Asadar, de la ce pericole trebuie sa protejam concurenta? Care sunt scopurile dreptului concurentei? Anume despre aceasta si vom vorbi mai departe. Vom pune in evidenta cateva sub-ramuri ale dreptului concurentei, si prin aceasta vom vedea directiile principale de reglementare in acest domeniu.

La momentul dat putem vorbi despre cateva sub-domenii principale in cadrul dreptului concurentei.

1. Prima si una dintre cele mai importante ramuri este combaterea cartelurilor (ele se mai numesc acorduri anticoncurentiale). Acestea sunt unele din cele mai grave incalcari a legislatiei in domeniul concurentei. Simplu vorbind, acestea sunt acordurile cu caracter anticoncurential care sunt indreptate spre coordonarea pentru majorarea preturilor pe piata, excluderea concurentilor sau divizarea pietelor si a.m.d. De exemplu, cand intr-o dimineata in drum spre lucru descoperiti ca preturile la toate benzinariile au crescut intr-o noapte, sunt foarte mari sanse ca a avaut loc o asemenea intelegere anticoncurentiala.

Aceste intelegeri intre actualii sau potentialii concurenti tinteaza in primul rand consumatorii (de exemplu, in cazul unei intelegeri privind majorarea preturilor pe piata), insa ele pot tinti si alti concurenti, pe care incearca sa-i excluda de pe piata. In rezultatul cartelului, intreprinderile care participa in el, isi ating anumite scopuri nu prin concurenta cinstita, ci prin anumite intelegeri clandestine dintre ele.

2. Inca o ramura importanta este prevenirea abuzurilor din partea intreprinderilor care ocupa pozitie dominanta pe piata. Un caz extrem al dominarii este monopolul, cand o singura intreprindere ocupa cota de 100 % pe piata. Insa, situatii de monopol pur sunt foarte rare. Mai des exista situatia cand pe piata sunt prezente mai multe companii, insa una sau mai multe din ele au putere semnificativa in comparatie cu alte intreprinderi, adica ocupa pozitia dominanta pe piata. Ca urmare, aceasta intreprindere poate incepe sa faca abuz de pozitie. Aceasta se poate manifesta prin diferite forme: majorarea preturilor, impunerea anumitor conditii cumparatorilor in mod unilateral, excluderea concurentilor din piata, etc.

Aici trebuie de mentionat ca atingerea pozitiei dominante pe piata in sine nu este o incalcare. Foarte des aceasta pozitie poate fi o dovada a eficientei economice sau a caracterului inovational a activitatii intreprinderii. Noi stim cu totii despre cazuri cand anumite intreprinderi au devenit lideri pe piata datorita implementarii ideilor sau inventiilor sale unice. De aceea scopul dreptului concurentei nu este crearea obstacolelor pentru intreprinderi in atingerea pozitiei dominante, pozitiei de lider pe piata, ci neadmiterea abuzurilor din partea acestor intreprinderi. Cu alte cuvinte, scopul este de a implementa reguli care nu le-ar permite intreprinderilor dominante sa foloseasca metode necinstite de concurenta prin utilizarea puterii sale economice.

3.         Controlul asupra concentrarilor economice.
Ce este o concentrare? Aceasta notiune cuprinde situatii in care are loc consolidarea pietii. Ele se intampla in cazul fuziunilor (cand se contopesc cateva intreprinderi) sau la preluarea controlului de catre o intreprindere asupra unei alte intreprinderi.

De ce concentrarile economice necesita o atentie speciala din partea statului? Pentru ca de fapt in cazul unei concentrari are loc micsorarea numarului concurentilor pe piata. Respectiv, cu cat mai putini concurenti, cu atat mai mare este probabilitatea ca vor avea loc careva abuzuri, ca intreprinderile ce raman pe piata se vor intelege si a.m.d. Mai ales aceasta devine si mai actual in cazul daca in rezultatul unei concentrari pe piata apare o intreprindere cu pozitie dominanta (noi am mentionat anterior ca aceasta poate duce la abuzuri din partea unei asemenea intreprinderi).

Respectiv, statul stabileste criterii cand o concentrare trebuie notificata la Consiliul Concurentei. Iar ultimul deja efectueaza analiza tranzactiei viitoare pentru a aprecia efectele negative care pot aparea in urma ei pentru mediul concurential.

4.         Concurenta neloiala. Mai sus noi am examinat trei domenii de baza ce se includ in notiunea dreptului concurentei aproape in fiecare stat si fiecare jurisdictie. Acestea fiind baza dreptului concurentei. Legea Concurentei, care nu demult a fost aprobata in Republica Moldova, stipuleaza inca o categorie a incalcarilor, ce sunt grupate sub notiunea “concurentei neloiale”. In aceasta se incadreaza diferite actiuni care in general pot fi caracterizate ca exercitare a concurentei prin metode de rea-credinta. Aici intra si diferite actiuni de utilizare ilegala a unei marci comerciale, folosirea ilicita a secretelor comerciale ale concurentilor, deturnarea clientelei concurentului prin inducerea in eroare, raspandirea informatiilor false. Respectiv, legea interzice asemenea actiuni si stabileste sanctiuni corespunzatoare.

5.         In sfarsit, ultima ramura, care uneori se considera un sub-domeniu al dreptului concurentei, iar alteori o ramura separata a reglementarii de stat, este ajutorul de stat. In cazul dat este vorba despre situatii cand statul acorda ajutor anumitor persoane intr-o forma sau alta. De ce aceasta poate devine o problema? Pentru ca in urma acestui ajutor unele persoane, intreprinderi pot primi avantaje adaugatoare, pe care ele nu le-ar primi de sine stator fara ajutorul din partea statutlui. Respectiv, aceasta poate duce la crearea conditiilor de activitate inechitabile pe piata. Pentru a nu admite sau minimiza aceste efecte negative la acordarea ajutorului de stat si se elaboreaza legislatia respectiva.


Asadar, noi am examinat intrebarea ce reprezinta acest drept al concurentei si pentru ce avem nevoie de el. In articolele ce vor urma pe acest site, vor fi analizate mai multe probleme ce tin de legislatia de concurenta sau implementarea ei in Moldova si alte tari.