04.02.15

English, French and German Translations of Dutch Article About EPO Abuses

Posted in Site News at 3:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

de Volkskrant front page

Summary: An article from “de Volkskrant” with translations, regarding Benoît Battistelli and the now-disgraced Opstelten who defended Battistelli’s assault on staff

FIVE weeks ago the Dutch media covered the situation at the EPO. One piece came from de Volkskrant, with “a circulation of approximately 250,000 nationwide.” We now have English, French and German translations [PDF]. Since this is an English-speaking site, here is the English version:

Benoît Battistelli, Director of the EPOrg, does not recognise trade unions. He has had email communication between trade unions and members blocked. © EPA

Opstelten: court ruling does not apply to European institution

According to the court, an organisation in Rijswijk breaches the rule of law. No, says the Minister, it has immunity.

By: Willem Feenstra 26 February 2015, 06:26

Ivo Opstelten, Security and Justice Minister. © ANP

Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten has binned the ruling of the Court of Appeal in The Hague. The ruling states that the European Patent Organisation (EPOrg) violates the fundamental principles of an open and democratic state under the rule of law. However, according to Opstelten, the European organisation enjoys immunity.

For years there has been a conflict at the EPOrg between management and a large portion of the employees. Director Benoît Battistelli is allegedly conducting a reign of terror and is averse to objection. He does not recognise trade unions and refuses to enter into discussion with them.

Measures

In order to counter organised opposition, the management of the organisation has blocked email communication between the unions and their members.

The task of the European Patent Organisation is to grant patent applicants a patent in a large number of European countries by means of a single application. The establishment in Rijswijk is, with 2,700 employees, the largest after Munich. In order to counter organised opposition, the management of the organisation has blocked email communication between the unions and their members. The right to strike has been restricted and employees expressing disagreement are threatened with disciplinary measures and dismissal. The trade unions are
also not welcome at the negotiation table.

Those measures are contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), so ruled the Court of Appeal in The Hague last week. ‘After all, this case concerns the rights of trade unions to take collective action and conduct collective negotiations, i.e. rights which belong to the fundamental principles of an open and democratic state under the rule of law.’

The Court ordered the Patent Office to reverse the disputed measures. In an internal statement, Battistelli has already indicated that he is not to going to adhere to this. According to him, the Patent Office, as an international organisation, is autonomous in the area of personnel policy. The internal rules were to form its own legal system in which a national court may not intervene.

Immunity

This means that these buildings may not be entered and enforcement action cannot be taken by Dutch authorities, or at any rate not without the consent of the President of the EPOrg.

Ivo Opstelten, Minister of Security and Justice

The Court of Appeal acknowledges that the Patent Office is an international organisation which can claim immunity but ‘this autonomy does not in any case stretch so far that the EPOrg could breach generally recognised fundamental rights in Europe without parties, such as the trade unions, being able to seek an effective remedy against such’.

Opstelten sees this differently. According to him, offices of the Patent Organisation in all contracting States enjoy immunity. This means that these buildings may not be entered and enforcement action cannot be taken by Dutch authorities, or at any rate not without the consent of the President of the EPOrg. He has ordered the court bailiff not to execute the enforcement orders in the judgement.

Immunity above human rights

Opstelten relies on an Act from the seventies. This must be applied dynamically, but he takes a very conservative view.

Cedric Ryngaert, Professor of International Law in Utrecht.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the conventions to which the Netherlands is subject in respect of the EPOrg are clear: no enforcement measures can be taken against the Patent Organisation in the Netherlands. ‘With the order, the cabinet therefore opts not to take sides in the underlying dispute,’ according to a spokesperson. ‘This has been done to observe the obligations of the Netherlands under the conventions. We make no public statements on the underlying dispute. This does not affect the fact that we, and other Member States, continue to monitor the situation.’

According to experts, Opstelten’s position is at odds with the rule of law and he chooses immunity over human rights. ‘Legally he might have the law on his side, but in view of the constitutional system this appears very odd,’ according to constitutional law expert and Senator Hans Engels. ‘It is exceptional that these kinds of powers lie with a minister. And I
don’t mean this in a positive sense.’

Cedric Ryngaert, Professor of International Law in Utrecht, considers the order by Opstelten exceptional. ‘Basically he erodes the power of the Court. International organisations are going to increasingly put themselves above the law, which is already a problem now. Opstelten relies on an Act from the seventies, which must be applied dynamically. Instead he takes a very conservative view.’

About a week after the publication of this report Opstelten was found to be corrupt and he stepped down. Supporting criminals seems to be his ‘thing’; it’s not about justice.

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