Author Archives:Catalin Stanescu

Thoughts on my first course: Intro to Energy Law – Energy Security and the Energy Charter Treaty

Recently I had the opportunity to hold a visiting course in Hungary, at the University of Szeged. The course was an introduction to energy law, focusing on the concept of energy security, mainly from an European perspective, and on the content, application and case law of the Energy Charter Treaty. It consisted of 8 lectures of 45 min each. 6 lectures were scheduled in a single day, while the remaining 2 were held during the following one. The class was addressed to senior law students (Hungary does not have master programs, but seniority – 4th and 5th year of studying law) and PhD students. Despite being a Hungarian state university the course was delivered entirely in English language. Overall it was a very interesting and enriching experience, from which I have derived several conclusions.

Preparation. Materials. Expectations

The course was designed initially for 6 sessions. However, close to the beginning date the university informed me that two extra sessions were added. Suddenly I faced the challenge of adapting on short term to the new challenge. However, I have decided that the extra two sessions should not be used for additional topics and concepts, but for emphasizing some of the initially planed ones, in order to ensure a better understanding and grasping of the topic. Since from the very beginning I aimed to make the class more relevant to my Hungarian students by focusing on cases involving Hungary, I took the opportunity of having extra sessions and dedicated one entirely to the famous ECT case – Electrabel vs Hungary. The plan was to have a very open and extensive discussion with students. Looking back on the outcome of the class, it proved to be a sound decision.

I have prepared the course materials for each session and ended up with about 550 pages for 8 sessions, which seemed like a lot even to me. However, half of the materials was represented by the arbitral award in Electrabel v Hungary while a third from the remaining materials was the text of the ECT which was more an instrument of work than an actual reading. Hence, I have decided to divide the materials into “mandatory” readings and “optional” readings and passed this information to the students. This allowed them to have a reasonable amount of readings to prepare for the sessions. In addition, I asked the students to read the media during the morning of the class and bring with them one piece of news related to energy if they would find any.

My expectation was to have an interactive class, where I could combine small periods of lecturing (10 min) with open discussions with the students, where to employ their knowledge, experience, or at least their grasping of the readings. These expectations were minimized by the university’s liaison who informed me that the student’s knowledge of English might be limited, which means I should be ready to deliver solely lectures. I prepared for this possibility but I went ready to do all in my power to engage students in the discussions and do not allow them to sit idle while I talk, and I talk, and I talk. Luckily the students’ English knowledge proved to be good which allowed us to engage and exchange information throughout the course.

Class attendance and participation

The opening class had a very large attendance (basically the room was full), with a number of 40-50 students. However, due to some courses overlap, the attendance reduced to a half during the next 2 classes. To my pleasant surprise new faces appeared during the next hours and they also returned later that day and for the final class, which meant that I was able to capture their interest. The ending session also enjoyed a large attendance, around 35-40 students.

As I have said I was determined to not allow students to sit idly while I give lectures. Therefore, we started slow and with the basics, generally explaining concepts of security, energy resources, and building from there. Before going into further details or developing the topic, I always took the time to ask them what they think, listened to them, tried to lead them towards the right track with targeted questions and allowed them to realize on their own where they erred or where I was leading them. However, although I have noticed that the audience was paying attention to the discussions, only 4-5 students expressed their willingness to actively engage in it. Since I wanted to get them started, I decided to work with those who volunteered, hoping the others will be tamed and join us later. I admit that after a while, although happy to have a dialogue, I became a bit unsatisfied with having the dialogue with the same persons. However, it was hard to ignore them, since they were making fair points and allowed me to show the others how their previous and current knowledge can help them with this new topic. The first 2 sessions passed in this manner. I am happy to say that I have noticed them to actually listen with curiosity instead of buttoning phones or chatting to each other.

For the second class, I took a slighter different approach. Since I was not sure how many of them have read the materials, I brought to class a documentary based on one of the provided readings and played 12 min of film for them. The movie was about the oil price crisis in the 80’s and the resemblance with the current one was striking. While students were watching the film, I watched the students, and noticed again their curiosity in the video, and, after the viewing ended, in what I had to say. However, I was most interested in what they thought about what they just saw. And this time, the remaining students were happy to oblige.

The third class of the day was tiring. Especially for me. I was discovering how demanding long teaching days are. Especially when there is no appropriate break. However, this was the class where policy issues were replaced by purely legal issues, which got the students even more involved in the talks. And not only this, but students started asking questions, taking the thought and the discussion further. They were not just re-acting to my questions, they were acting. The classroom became a forum where ideas emerged and were exchanged, opinions were issued and discussed, challenged or supported. And the students left the class still talking about the topics just covered..

The most fulfilling moment was the last class, held the next day. Beside the large audience, I was happy to notice their constant attention and involvement. The class was dedicated entirely to arbitration cases and it had a very practical approach. Based on the theoretical background provided in the previous sessions, the students were asked to act like arbitrators and decide the cases. And they did get into the game. But the actual satisfaction  – mine and theirs – came from another aspect. Some of the cases had repetitive legal aspects. The students got these aspects really fast and started answering my questions with confidence and entirely accurate. They were happy to hear my praising of their understanding and (newly acquired) knowledge. I was happy to see that they paid attention and learned the lesson from the classroom. Their increased confidence led to an increased and more diverse participation in the class discussion. And when the class ended, I was glad to receive their applause and their satisfaction with the overall course. I do admit I felt a bit like a star, but for me, the stars were they, for they had courage to come to a new class, with a teacher they did not know, who challenged them continuously with questions and demand for reasoning and explanations of their answers. They were the real stars for taking an interest and making the most of those 8 sessions.

Overall (self-)assessment

No class was perfect, but given all the unknown factors I have faced, as well as the uncertainty concerning students’ knowledge of English and their interest in such a topic, I think I was able to exceed my own expectations. The greatest satisfaction came from the fact that the topic I proposed and presented, as well as the fashion in which I have done it, kept them interested and made them return. The class was mandatory for PhD students, but the large majority of the audience was made of senior students. This is a big accomplishment.

Although I was concerned with not being able to involve them, I have surpassed the fear with the help of those students who got into the course from the outset. Most of the teaching environments have these “talkers”. They are useful, because the get things going. They are also problematic: sometimes their contributions are not valuable. Or they tend to monopolize the discussions. For the first issue, two possible solutions come up: either one builds on their mistakes in order to get to the right answer by involving the rest of the class (questions such as: do you agree with your colleague? can I hear a different opinion? prove extremely valuable), or try to ignore them politely by saying: let’s hear other opinions or let’s talk to someone else. For the second issue, the solution is not to marginalize them, but to encourage others to join .

I would have wanted a larger class participation from the beginning. However, I had to settle with their attention and interest. If the class delivers, I have noticed that with time, as they become more familiarized with the style, with the professor and with the topic, the students can be tamed. It requires passion and patience. If the class is not yet involved, but they are present, my advice would be to act friendly. Friendly and passionate. Reach out to them, but don’t be pushy. Give them time. Time to think, to process, to get involved. If they don’t, show no dissatisfaction and move on. They will come around. My students in Szeged did.

And always remember that you are there for them, and not the other way around.

 

 

 

 

Dr. Asress Adimi Gikay – Defense Speech (first 15 min)

On 24th of February, Mr. Asress Adimi Gikay had his doctoral defense at Central European University. The defense was a success which resulted in the award of a Summa cum Laude doctorate in the area of secured transactions law and reform. Congratulations to Dr. Gikay on this great achievement!

For those interested, please find bellow the first 15 minutes of his doctoral speech.

Doctoral defense of Mr. Asress Gikay

Books of 2015

2015 was a full year: completion of the PhD, submission, defense, exams, writing, publications, applications, resuming work and plenty of travelling. However busy, I managed to find a bit of time for reading, though not as much as in the past, nor as much as I would have liked to. I believe a researcher, an intelectual coming from any area, should make time to read and actively read, inside or outside her domain. The following list and the short descriptions (I am not going to bore anyone with detailed reviews) are meant as a memento for myself, a record of one of my favorite pleasures. The order is random.

Karl Ove Knausgaard – A Man in Love

The second book of the series titled: My Struggle. An honest and somehow tough account of the artist’s ‘married with children’ life while trying to keep up with his writing.

Michael Houellebecq – Submission

This was for me the reading event of the year. Despite common beliefs the book is not (necessarily) about Islam, but about the lack of reaction to evil and the ease with which the West submits to it. The Islam, from the book, can be replaced with any fundamentalist religion or political system. The end result would be the same. That is the horrific part of the whole story. Another exceptional delivery of the French master. 

Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood

A book about love and suicide. About hope and hopelessness, about salvation and damnation. I did not look and listen to the song this time. But I liked the novel a lot.

Haruki Murakami – After the Quake

A collection of short stories in which the omnipresent secondary character is the quake. The author captures the effect of the quake on people’s life. The stories are short, some just bits of life, some fantastic, some sad. The main idea is that ‘life goes on’.

Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

A novel about re-discovering one selves. A reversed journey into the past for healing purposes. Very good writing.

George RR Martin – Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

While waiting for the (now postponed) 6th volume of the epic Song of Ice and Fire, I had to read these 3 stories which take place about 100 years before those that caught HBO’s attention. The stories are light and fun, but nowhere near the amazing writing that Martin got us used to. It’s a book for the fans and worth a lazy afternoon.

Adriana Saftoiu – Cronica de Cotroceni

A collection of anecdotes and diary entries from the time when the author was acting counselor of the president of Romania. Interesting for the portray of Basescu in his early (and recent) years, which, pretty much confirmed my opinion of him. Despite the innuendo concerning Basescu’s relationship with minister Elena Udrea, Basescu proves to be a rather complex character. Saftoiu did not harm his image with her writing, that is for sure.

Neagu Djuvara  – Scurta istorie a romanilor povestita celor tineri (Short History of Romanians Narrated for the Youth)

For me the book was more of a curiosity: how does Djuvara see our history, but I have still managed to find some new and interesting information. The events experienced by Djuvara himself are narrated in a subjective manner, and fall more with memoirs genre than with history. All in all, a recommended book for those who wish to know the basics of our history without bothering too much.

Lucian Boia – Cum s-a romanizat Romania?

For me it is simply amazing how much and how fast Boia can right quality essays. This one explains how Romania became more and more Romanian from its unification and until today. However, one must notice how something is lost every time something is gained: more uniformity, less cosmopolitanism and diversity and also less connections with Romanians abroad.

Lucian Boia – Mihai Eminescu, romanul absolut

An essay dedicated to how Mihai Eminescu was transformed into a national myth, which was then used by all political entities and regimes.

Istvan Orkeny – One minute stories

Delicious and funny Hungarian writing about the beginning years of communism in Budapest

Henry Kissinger – World Order

Essential for those who wish to understand not only the global political systems but also how the world (still) works today.

Umberto Eco – Zero Issue

Not his best novel, but a very good story about how media manipulates news.

Adrian Wooldridge – The Company. A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea

Not what I expected, but indeed an informative history of the company. Seemed more as a collection of trivia about the topic, from its outset until present times.

Chuck Palahniuk – Beautiful You

As usually, his novels must be read with an open mind and a big laughter. This one imagines a world in which women discovered the perfect sex toy and do nothing all day than enjoy, being thus controlled by the creator. A welcomed pamflet of 50 shades of gray. 

Chuck Palahniuk – Apocalipse

Second part of the trilogy whose character is a dead girl whose parents seem to be Angelina and Brad Pitt. Original, witty, funny and excellently written.  

Mircea Cartarescu – Solenoid

The concluding book of the year. Cannot say whether I liked it or not. Many events were familiar due to Nostalgia and Orbitor. Not hard to read, but dense, with descriptions and a sea of words which many times seemed useless. 20-30 pages which are absolutely painful, the impressions of Bucharest are simply stunning. An ending which reminded me of the final scenes of Avengers – Age of Ultron. I will leave this one for the critics.

How Was It: Wolters Kluwer (Romania) – Seminar on Litigation in Renewable Energy Area

Last week, on 10th of December, I have attended a very interesting Seminar organized by Wolters Kluwer Romania at the American Chamber of Commerce in Bucharest, on the hot topic of Litigation in Renewable Energy.

The seminar consisted in three presentations held by Adrian Iordache (attorney at law), who gave a presentation on the Romanian legal framework of the issue (Romania’s Renewables – Lessons in Legislative Risks), Iuliana Boghez (diplomat) who gave a presentation on the EU Energy Charter (A Game of Treaties: The EU Treaty concerning the Energy Charter) and Anna de Luca (academic) who spoke about investment protection and ICSID arbitration in the field of Renewable Energy (Energy Investment Protection> What is Available? How it Works? What Does it Cost?). Each of the presentation cause lively debates among the participants, most of them focused on the practical issue concerning investment protection, which should not be a surprise, given the fact that 99.9% of them were energy lawyers with targeted interests arising from the cases they were involved in.

But the practical aspects of litigation and arbitration concerning investments in renewable energy in Romania, were extremely interesting even for researchers, such as myself, especially since the topic of renewable energy investment is absent from local law journals and is more dealt with by the written media and a few NGO’s. I must admit that I got quite a few of interesting ideas for the update on my monograph on Romanian Energy Law. The conclusion was that due to the peculiarities  of the Romanian case and legislation, the chances to bring investment claims against the state are pretty slim, especially due to the fact that Romania managed not to undertake any personal/nominal obligation towards any investor.

 

Bellow I am summarizing some of the ideas that I have gathered during the presentations/discussions:

Adrian Iordache:

  • no Green Certificates were sold during the summer of 2015
  • there was no plan B for Green Certificates
  • new investments are practically gone due to changes in the application of the support scheme
  • the Green Certificates market collapsed due to lack of incentives for investors, because it was not open to intermediaries, drop in demand for Green Certificates (due to NRAE’s powers to establish mandatory quotas and to exemptions granted to some of the large industrial energy consumers).
Iuliana Boghez:
  • usually EU states are sued by EU investors
  • does the European Charter Treaty apply to such cases or only to EU v. non-EU entities – normally the ECT is not for internal energy policies and investments
  • European Commission takes the view that arbitral tribunals under ECT do not have jurisdiction, but the CJEU.
  • disputes between Member States may occur in front of CJEU but only if states are investors.
  • arbitral tribunals took the opposite view: see Electrobel v. Hungary and Eastern Sugar v. Czech Republic
  • enforcing awards under ICSID infringe EU competition law on state aid: Micula v. European Commission
Anna de Luca:
  • the protection is for post-established investment
(Disclaimer: The ideas written here might not correspond with those of the speakers and do not bind the speakers in any way. They are simply the transcript of my personal notes.)

 

Cat mai toleram pozitiile domnului Isarescu?

Incep intai prin a-l felicita pe Gheorghe Piperea pentru victoria istorica (si care sper sa nu ramana singulara) impotriva clauzelor abuzive inserate in contractele standard ale BCR. Exemplul e unul demn de urmat si niciuna din aceste institutii financiare, invatate sa faca profit nu din afaceri sau investitii (a se citi obiectul muncii) ci din jecmaneala populatiei (a se citi credite retail), nu trebuie lasate sa scape scrutinului judiciar.

Remarc insa cu profunda dezamagire faptul ca guvernatorul BNR continua sa fie purtatorul de cuvant si reprezentantul intereselor bancilor comerciale din Romania, vorbind cu emfaza despre lucruri pe care nu le stie si nu le intelege, precum notiunea de clauza abuziva sau contractul de adeziune.

In urma deciziei ICCJ in cazul BCR, domnul guvernator s-a exprimat public in sensul ca “ce ai semnat, ramane bun semnat si trebuie executat”, fara sa ia in considerare faptul ca ce semnezi si ramane bun semnat, trebuie si negociat mai intai. Negociat si inteles. Or, nicio banca din Romania nu negociaza termenii si conditiile cu clientul. Ca atare, multe din clauzele respective nu respecta minimul impus de Codul civil sau de legislatia europeana in materia protectiei consumatorului, bancile bazandu-se nu numai pe pozitia de putere pe care o au, asistenta juridica pe care si-o permit, ci si pe lobbyul si influenta pe care o au pe langa politicieni sau conducatorii unor institutii cheie, precum guvernatorul BNR.

Nu trebuie sa mire pe nimeni atitudinea domnului Isarescu. Acestui produs veritabil al tranzitiei romanesti nu-i pasa catusi de putin de cetateanul si consumatorul roman, vazut doar ca o vaca de muls de catre banci. Pe dumnealui il doare mai tare de faptul ca daca s-ar elimina clauzele abuzive din contractele de retail ale bancilor acestea vor inregistra pierderi de 1,1 miliarde de euro, bani pe care subsidiarele marilor banci europene nu i-ar mai putea trimite in conturile firmelor mama de peste hotare.

Ce este insa surprinzator este cum INM-ul poate sa accepte scolirea judecatorilor de catre “expertii” BNR. Acestia din urma au misiunea de a-i face pe administratorii justitiei sa inteleaga “impactul negativ al interpretarii extinse a notiunii de “clauze abuzive” in sistemul financiar-bancar”, cu alte cuvinte, le spun judecatorilor ca ar fi cazul sa-si schimbe practica.

Daca orice alt politician ar fi spus public asa ceva, CSM-ul si ambasadorii cu influenta ar fi sesizat si sanctionat imediat ingerenta in actul de justitie si afectarea independentei judecatorilor in solutionarea cauzei. In schimb, domnul guvernator al BNR ramane neatins pe pozitii. Atat pe cea de critic si expert juridic, cat si pe cea de guvernator al asa-zisei Banci Nationale a Romaniei. Pana cand?