Case law to remember

C-265/95 Commission v France (Spanish Strawberries) 1983

Intro: Since the accession of Spain to the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986, French fruit (particularly strawberry) and vegetable producers have reportedly suffered economic losses from competition with Spanish producers. As early as 1985, French farmers began to take destructive actions against Spanish produce imported into France.

Case: French farmers (including Coordination Rurale) vandalized and destroyed produce being imported from other Member States. These incidents continued through 1997. Meanwhile, it was alleged that French officials did little or nothing to stop French farmers from destroying agricultural goods from other Member States. Particularly, it was asserted that French police who were monitoring the protests, failed to protect foreign trucks and produce from vandalism and destruction by French farmers.

Legal Problem/Question: On July 19, 1994, the Commission commenced proceedings under Article 169 of the EC Treaty, alleging that France had failed to fulfil its Treaty obligations. France replied that it had sought to combat the vandalism by implementing preventative measures and through prosecuting offenders in French courts. In response, the Commission formally issued a reasoned opinion pursuant to Article 169(1)” alleging France’s failure to meet its obligations and inviting France to comply with the opinion within one month of its issue.

Decision: The CJ faced a situation of civil disorder, by French farmers blocking imports of agricultural produce, contrary to Article 34 TFEU. Despite complaints by the Commission, the French authorities had failed to take any significant action to prevent the demonstrations, arguing that more determine action might lead to more serious breaches of public order or even social conflict. The CJ refused to accept these arguments: Apprehension of internal difficulties could not justify a failure by a MS to apply union law correctly… It was for a MS to guarantee the full scope and effect of that law, to ensure its proper implementation, unless that state could show that action by it could have consequences for public order with which could not cope.

On those grounds, the Court of Justice declared that by failing to adopt all necessary and proportionate measures in order to prevent the free movement of fruit and vegetables from being obstructed by actions by private individuals, the French Republic had failed to fulfil its obligations under article 30 of the EC Treaty, in conjunction with article 5 of that Treaty, and under the common organisations of the markets in agricultural products.

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113/80 Commission v Ireland (Restrictions on importation souvenirs) 1981

Intro: With the Cassie de Dijon case, the CJ introduced the “rule of reason” allowing national measures additionally to be justified on public interest grounds not mentioned in the treaty.

Case: The Irish government sought to justify on Cassis principles, an order requiring that imported souvenirs be marked “foreign” or with their country of origin, arguing that the measure was necessary in the interests of consumers and fair trading – to enable consumers to distinguish the “genuine” (homemade) souvenirs from the imported (fakes)

Legal Question/Problem: The applicant claims that the Court should declare that by requiring that the imported articles falling within the Merchandise Marks (Restriction on Sale of Imported Jewellery) Order 1971 and the Merchandise Marks (Restriction on Importation of Jewellery) Order 1971 bear an indication of origin, Ireland has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 30 of the EEC Treaty. The Government of Ireland asked the Court, if it should accept the basic argument upon which Ireland’s defence is based and its application in principle to the present case, but find that in some particular respect the orders at issue go beyond the strict limits of what is permitted by Article 36 of the Treaty, to state in its judgment the respects, if any, in which the orders go beyond the permitted limits.

Decision: The court held that since the measure applied only to imported souvenirs it could not be judged on Cassis principles. It could only be justified on the grounds provided by Article 36 TFEU. Since that article created an exception to the principle of free movement of goods, it could not be extended to situations other than those specifically laid down. The measure could not be justified in the interests of consumer protection. On those grounds, the court hereby: Declares that by requiring all articles imported from other member-States which are covered by the Merchandise Marks (Restriction on Sale of Imported Jewellery) Order 1971 and by the Merchandise Marks (Restriction on Importation of Jewellery) Order 1971 to bear an indication of origin or the word ‘foreign’, Ireland has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 30 of the EEC Treaty. Orders the defendant to pay the costs.