CJEU clarifies that EU has external competence to negotiate international agreements on broadcasting rights

The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) issued its decision in Case C-114/12, Commission v. Council, on 4 September 2014, concerning the EU’s external competence to negotiate copyright-related treaties regarding an action for annulment. The case arose as a result of the dispute between the European Commission and the Council about the competence to negotiate a Convention of the Council of Europe on the neighbouring rights of broadcasting organisations.

According to Article 3(2) TFEU it is the exclusive competence of the EU for the conclusion of an international agreement when its conclusion is provided for in a legislative act of the Union or is necessary to enable the Union to exercise its internal competence, or in so far as its conclusion may affect common rules or alter their scope.
 
The CJEU underlined that, according to consistent case law, the scope of common EU rules may be affected or altered by international commitments also where those commitments fall within an area which is already largely covered by such rules. EU Member States may not enter into such commitments outside the framework of the EU institutions. The adoption of a Convention relating to the protection of neighbouring rights of broadcasting organisations would relate to an area which has been harmonised at EU level, as is clear from the EU Directives 93/83, 2001/29, 2004/48, 2006/115 and 2006/116. Against this background, the CJEU concluded that the negotiations for a Convention of the Council of Europe on the protection of neighbouring rights of broadcasting organisations fall within the exclusive competence of the EU, and that the contested decision was adopted in breach of Article 3(2) TFEU.
 
The CJEU’s complete decision is available here, while Advocate General Sharpston’s related Opinion is here.