by José Ricardo Sousa, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho
Keywords: Common Market; Court of Justice; Question; Article 177; Member States.
Court: CJEU | Date: Oct. 6th 1982 | Case: 283/81 | Applicants: Srl CILFT vs Italian Minister of Health.
Summary: Since the adoption of the Italian Law nº 30 of January’68, textile firms had paid by way of fixed health inspection levy a certain amount of wool, until the application of law nº1239 of December’70. The last mentioned law amended the levy, but textile firms had been required to pay a sum of the levy. Tribunal di Roma dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal in October’76. They argued that Law nº 1968 was inapplicable because Regulation (EEC) nº 827/68 was adopted. Court of Appeal had also given reason to Ministry of Health. In October ’79, Ministry of Health lodged the judgement of Court of Appeal and added that wool was not included in Annex II of EEC Treaty, so it’s the states’ competence to rule on the matter, and they said that it wasn’t necessary to send any question to CJEU because the case was very clear. According to MoH’s arguments the Court of Appeal found a relevant question to send to the CJEU involving article 177 of the Treaty:
“Does the third paragraph of Article 177 of the EEC Treaty, which provides that where any question of the same kind as those listed in the first paragraph of that article is raised in a case pending before a national court or tribunal against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law that court or tribunal must bring the matter before the Court of Justice, lay down an obligation so to submit the case which precludes the national court from determining whether the question raised is justified or does it, and if so within what limits, make that obligation conditional on the prior finding of a reasonable interpretative doubt?
The CJEU started to answer the question saying that the article 177 confers jurisdiction to the Court of Justice to give preliminary rulings about the interpretation of the Treaty. They proceeded the judgement by saying that any court or tribunal of a Member State may request to the CJEU, if it considers necessary to take a decision upon a matter. Thus, when there is a question of interpretation related to European law, national courts shall send the matter to Court of Justice. CJEU stressed the spirit of cooperation to ensure the proper application of European law. Article 177 prevents the occurrence of divergences in judicial decisions that enter the sphere of the European law.
The expression “where any such question is raised” deserved attention by the CJEU. Article 177 doesn’t give any rights for CJEU to repair the case pending in national courts. The submission of the questions fits to national courts however particulars may rise questions if could be relevant for the case. However, national courts are not obliged to accept all questions according to the article 177. National courts must send any relevant questions connected to European law that were not previously answered to decide a case.
The decision can be accessed here and the opinion of the AG here.