The 5th EUROPA Moot Court Competition : Expericence by Thomas Buttin

Le concours de plaidoirie EUROPA est un concours de droit de l’Union rassemblant des universités du continent le temps d’un week-end. Une affaire fictive est donnée aux équipes participantes en amont pour la préparation des arguments et des plaidoiries. Le sujet de cette 5ème édition portait sur l’interprétation de l’article 17 du Règlement général sur la protection des données personnelles, ainsi que sur son champ d’application ratione loci. Plus qu’un simple concours juridique et d’éloquence, le concours de plaidoirie est une expérience humaine. La dimension évidemment européenne apporte à l’étudiant une plus-value dans son parcours universitaires, mais aussi dans la construction de l’esprit. Les échanges inter-européens dénotent aussi d’une société européenne existante qu’un tel concours dévoile : tout étudiant en droit européen devrait y participer

For the past 5 years, the MOHA Research Center organizes the EUROPA Moot Court competition that takes place at the Imaret of Kavala and the Roman forum of Philippi (Greece, EU). During Easter, the competition brings together students and academics from seven European universities and a Qatari one, as well as legal practitioners and judges from the EU institutions.

Mooting competitions require young scholars to engage with legal issues, and to enhance their skills of legal research and analysis, as well as their skills of persuasive argument, in the formal context of a court. The aim of this competition is to further the application of EU law and to allow students in developping oral argument. Kavala’s competition offers the opportunity to develop an understanding of substantive EU principles, to build legal reasonings in collaboration with teammates, and to interact with practitioners and academics in an idyllic environment.

A full-on schedule but worthy

After a few weeks of working on the case at the university, as well as preparing the pleadings, the departure time has arrived. The bus ride from Thessaloniki airport offers a wonderful view on olive groves and the Mediterranean coast as we drive along to Kavala. It is the end of March, but it is already sunny and clement. The small town of Kavala appears in a bend at sunset and reveals its wonders : the pleasant port for meals, a citadel erected on a rocky outcrop and an acient aqueduct.

The dinner allows to create the first connections with the other teams around a typically Greek meal. The next day, the meeting point is at the Imaret of Kavala located just below the fortress. The Imaret, Koranic school and charitable center which was built in 1813 supported the educational, social and religious need of the Muslim population. It reminds us of the region history and the religious clashes that took place here. The Imaret is a rare example in Europe of 19th century Ottaman architecture, which also features elements of timber secular structures : the variety of decoration, the interaction between indoor and open spaces… The school continued to function as late as 1902. After the Lausanne Treaty and the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, the complex housed Greek refugees from Asia Minor (1927-1960). The identity, cultural significance and history remains today with an International Cultural Center for the promotion of common culture and civilization.

Besides this exceptional building that brings us back to our European identity, the weekend will be punctuated by the contemplation of Kavala’s bay, cultural exchanges with other teams and the visit of an exceptional heritage at Philippi. Indeed, the competition’s small and grand final take place at the Roman forum of Philippi that is the most important archaeological site of eastern Macedonia, with characteristic mounments of the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian periods. Philippi’s ruins shows the major city it was once. Its original name was Crenides after its establishment by Thasian colonists in 360/359 BC. The city was renamed by Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.

Among those educational activities and the competititon taking place in only few days, the schedule is well filled with discusions, or debate with academics and legal practitioners. More social activities such as going out in some bars and nightclubs brings another extent to this experience with people coming from all over Europe : and there’s nothing like partying on Greek music!

Helpfull exchanges and rich lessons

If mooting is the prime objective when preparing the pleadings before leaving for Kavala, once there, meetings with students from European universities become the priority. Exchanges between young people in Europe brings a different vision to the neighboring countries, and to our – become obvious – cultural proximity.

In the competition, among other academics, will judge and grade the participants the – from now on former – First Advocate General of the Cour of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), Mr. Melchior Wathelet, and the former President, Mr. Vasilios Skouris. Discussions with the judges between and after the pleadings are very enriching and enlighten us on the case apprehension, as well as on the contemporary social, political, economic or cultural problems that the European States must face. For example, we debated on the common asylum policy issues, on the European integration as an ever closer union, or on the political issue nationalism is.

In addition, mooting is not about winning. It teaches us rich lessons on the legal research, as well as how to bring the parties’ arguments. However the manner of speaking matters very much. This is usually what carries weight in the finalists choice. Anyway, Paschalis Paschalidis, – from now on former – legal adviser at the ECJ and author of the case, told me that if I was not able to win the case, I possibly should judge it…

The case : interpretation of the very discussed General Data Protection Regulation

For the Moot Court Competititon 2018 edition I participated in, it is choosen Data Protection as a general topic as protected by EU law. Like in every moot court, an imaginary case have been created inspired by the hacking of Podesta’s email account and the release of his emails on the Wikileaks website. The idea was to test the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in May 2018. The defence considered privacy as a fundemantal right, as well as part of the European values. The case raised two limbs: one dealing with the territorial scope of the right to erasure in relation to individuals who seek to delist information from Internet search engines, like Google, in order to prevent the public of a non-EU State to have access to the data in question ; and one dealing with the notion of data processing regarding the public interest. It underlined essentially the possibility to use the right to erasure – possibly interpreted as a right to be forgotten – as a gagging instrument against entities such as Wikileaks.

Mooting gives you an excellent opportunity to explore a legal probem in details and to engage with, and learn from, team members and academics. The knowledge that you acquire in certain fields of EU law from mooting can be put in use in examinations for sure. The discussion led us to wonder on the Regulation’s territorial scope : does a non-EU citizen can benefit from the protection of the GDPR ? Are the data controllers which are processing them bound by EU law ? These questioning framed our reasoning by developing helpful bridge from abstract legal points to practice. Indeed, mooting in European law provides those on subject whose conceptual boundaries and factual underpinnings are contested and complex. The pleading of concrete cases gives students a very valuable foothold.

Besides, mooting in European law reproduces the ECJ procedure. It gives the opportunity to explore a counsel work on a case that could be treated by the Court. Regarding this aspect, the ECJ recalled, in its first case on the GDPR interpretation, that Article 4 (7) of the GDPR incorporates the definition of data controller given by the former Directive 95/46, so that the solution is fully transposable to the state of law since May 25, 2018. But we will have to be patient until the Court gives its interpretation on the articles at issues in our case.

I participated as a defence counsel in the EUROPA Moot Court Competition which was twinned with the teaching of my postdegree diploma in European Business Law. The discussion with legal practitioners and judges from the EU institutions during and after the moot were far more animated and detailed than the same discussions back at university. Indeed, the initial anxiety about mooting quickly gave way to a genuine interest in the subject matter and, perhaps more importantly, a more analytical and critical approach to the decision, and more generally to the state of EU law.

Thomas Buttin, European Law and European Business Law student, Master degree in European Law at the University Lyon III

See the ELMC Case 2018-2019 here


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