Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaire of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra and Sophie Perez)
Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 22 December 2022, Ministre de la Transition écologique and Premier ministre (Liability of the State for air pollution), Case C‑61/21, EU:C:2022:1015
Reference for a preliminary ruling – Environment – Directives 80/779/EEC, 85/203/EEC, 96/62/EC, 1999/30/EC and 2008/50/EC – Air quality – Limit values for microparticles (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – Exceeded – Air quality plans – Damage caused to an individual on account of deterioration of the air resulting from the exceedance of those limit values – Liability of the Member State concerned – Conditions for establishing that liability – Requirement that the rule of EU law infringed be intended to confer rights on the individuals who have been harmed – No such intention
JP argues that the deterioration of the ambient air quality in the Paris agglomeration, where he lives, was the result of a breach by the French authorities of their obligations under Directive 2008/50, in so far as the limit values for microparticles (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) laid down in Annex XI of that directive had been exceeded. JP applied to the tribunal administratif de Cergy-Pontoise (Administrative Court, Cergy-Pontoise, France) seeking, inter alia, annulment of the implied decision of the Prefect of Val-d’Oise (France), which is part of the agglomeration of Paris, refusing to take the necessary measures to address his health problems linked to air pollution in that agglomeration, problems which began in 2003; and compensation from the French Republic for the various heads of damage which he claims to have suffered on account of that pollution.
The tribunal administratif de Cergy-Pontoise rejected JP’s claims in their entirety on the ground, in essence, that Articles 13 and 23 of Directive 2008/50 do not confer any right on individuals to obtain compensation for any damage suffered as a result of the deterioration of air quality. JP brought an appeal against that judgment before the cour administrative d’appel de Versailles (Administrative Court of Appeal, Versailles, France). This court made a reference for a preliminary ruling in order to ascertain, in essence, whether Article 13(1) and Article 23(1) of Directive 2008/50 must be interpreted as meaning that they are intended to confer rights on individuals capable of entitling them to compensation from a Member State under the principle of State liability for loss and damage caused to individuals as a result of breaches of EU law attributable to that Member State.
Findings of the ECJ
In its judgement, the ECJ recalls its case-law according to which individuals who have been harmed have a right to compensation where three conditions are met: the rule of EU law infringed must be intended to confer rights on them; the infringement of that rule must be sufficiently serious; and there must be a direct causal link between that infringement and the loss or damage sustained by those individuals.
As regards the first of these conditions, the ECJ acknowledges that Article 13(1) and Article 23(1) of Directive 2008/50, like the analogous provisions of directives which preceded it, lay down fairly clear and precise obligations as to the result to be achieved by Member States, but are not intended to confer rights on individuals capable of entitling them to compensation from a Member State under the principle of State liability for loss and damage caused to individuals as a result of breaches of EU law attributable to that Member State. According to the ECJ, those provisions, which pursue a general objective of protecting human health and the environment as a whole, do not contain any express conferral of rights on individuals. Furthermore, it cannot be inferred from the obligations laid down in those provisions, with the general objective referred to above, that individuals or categories of individuals are implicitly granted rights the breach of which would be capable of giving rise to a Member State’s liability under EU law.
The ECJ clarifies that this conclusion does not mean that a Member State cannot incur liability under less strict conditions on the basis of national law, nor does it prevent, where appropriate, a failure to fulfil the obligations resulting from Article 13(1) and Article 23(1) of Directive 2008/50 from being taken into account in that regard as a factor which may be relevant for the purposes of establishing the liability of public authorities on a basis other than EU law.
The ECJ further recalls that where a Member State has not ensured compliance with the limit values set out in Article 13(1) of Directive 2008/50 and the analogous provisions of the earlier directives, the individuals concerned must be able to require the national authorities, if necessary by bringing an action before the courts having jurisdiction, to adopt the measures required under those directives. In this context, national courts are not precluded from issuing injunctions together with periodic penalties to ensure that the Member State concerned complies with the obligations arising under Article 13(1) and Article 23(1) of Directive 2008/50 and the analogous provisions of the earlier directives.
Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 31 January 2023, Puig Gordi e o., Case C-158/21, EU:C:2023:57
Reference for a preliminary ruling – Area of freedom, security and justice – Judicial cooperation in criminal matters – European arrest warrant – Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA – Surrender procedures between Member States – Conditions for execution – Jurisdiction of the issuing judicial authority – Second paragraph of Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Right of access to a tribunal previously established by law – Possibility of issuing a new European arrest warrant relating to the same person
In the context of the prosecution of former Catalan leaders following a referendum, held on 1 October 2017, concerning self-determination for the Autonomous Community of Catalonia (Spain), the Tribunal Supremo (Spanish Supreme Court) issued several European arrest warrants (EAW) for some of the defendants who had left Spain, including Mr Lluís Puig Gordi. The Belgian courts refused to give effect to the EAW issued for Mr Puig Gordi. They considered that there was a risk that his right to be tried by a tribunal established by law would be infringed, given that the jurisdiction of the Tribunal Supremo to try the persons sought did not have an express legal basis.
The Tribunal Supremo referred several questions to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling in order to ascertain, in essence, whether an executing judicial authority has the power to refuse to execute a EAW on the ground either that the issuing judicial authority lacks jurisdiction to issue that EAW, or that the person for whom that warrant has been issued is at risk, following his or her surrender to the issuing Member State, of being tried by a court lacking jurisdiction for that purpose, and whether Framework Decision2002/584 precludes the issuing of several successive EAW after the execution of a first EAW concerning the same person has been refused.
Findings of the ECJ
In its judgement, the ECJ recalls that an executing judicial authority does not have the power to refuse to execute a EAW on the basis of a ground for non-execution which arises not from Framework Decision 2002/584, but solely from the law of the executing Member State. However, that judicial authority may apply a national provision which provides that the execution of a EAW is to be refused where that execution would lead to an infringement of a fundamental right enshrined in EU law, provided that the scope of that provision does not go beyond the scope of Article 1(3) of Framework Decision 2002/584, as interpreted by the ECJ.
The ECJ clarifies that the executing judicial authority may not verify whether a EAW has been issued by a judicial authority which had jurisdiction for that purpose and refuse to execute that EAW where it considers that that is not the case.
Moreover, the ECJ interprets Article 1(3) of Framework Decision 2002/584, read in conjunction with the second paragraph of Article 47 CFREU, as meaning that the executing judicial authority called upon to decide on the surrender of a person for whom a EAW has been issued may not refuse to execute that warrant on the ground that that person is at risk, following his or her surrender to the issuing Member State, of being tried by a court which lacks jurisdiction for that purpose unless two conditions are met:
i) that judicial authority has objective, reliable, specific and properly updated information showing that there are systemic or generalised deficiencies in the operation of the judicial system of the issuing Member State or deficiencies affecting the judicial protection of an objectively identifiable group of persons to which the person concerned belongs, in the light of the requirement for a tribunal established by law, which mean that the individuals concerned are generally deprived, in that Member State, of an effective legal remedy enabling a review of the jurisdiction of the criminal court called upon to try them; and,
ii) that judicial authority finds that, in the particular circumstances of the case in question, there are substantial grounds for believing that, taking into account, inter alia, the information that is provided by the person for whom that EAW has been issued and that relates to his or her personal situation, to the nature of the offence for which that person is prosecuted, to the factual context in which that EAW was issued or to any other relevant circumstance, the court which is likely to be called upon to hear the proceedings to which that person will be subject in the issuing Member State manifestly lacks jurisdiction for that purpose.
The ECJ adds the fact that the person concerned was able, before the courts of the issuing Member State, to rely on his or her fundamental rights in order to challenge the jurisdiction of the issuing judicial authority and the EAW issued for him or her is of no decisive importance in that regard.
In any case, the executing judicial authority is precluded from refusing to execute a EAW on the ground that the person for whom that warrant has been issued is at risk, following his or her surrender to the issuing Member State, of being tried by a court lacking jurisdiction for that purpose, without having first requested that the issuing judicial authority provide supplementary information, on the basis of Article 15(2) of Framework Decision 2002/584.
The ECJ further clarifies that, in a situation where a person for whom a EAW has been issued alleges that he or she is at risk, following his or her surrender to the issuing Member State, of being tried by a court lacking jurisdiction for that purpose, the existence of a report by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which does not directly relate to that person’s situation may not, in itself, be justification for the executing judicial authority to refuse to execute that EAW, but such a report may, however, be taken into account by that judicial authority, among other elements, in order to assess whether there are systemic or generalised deficiencies in the operation of the judicial system of that Member State or deficiencies affecting the judicial protection of an objectively identifiable group of persons to which that person belongs
Finally, the ECJ holds that Framework Decision 2002/584 does not preclude the issuing of several successive EAW against a requested person with a view to obtaining his or her surrender by a Member State after the execution of a first EAW concerning that person has been refused by that Member State, provided that the execution of a new EAW does not result in an infringement of Article 1(3) of Framework Decision 2002/584 and that the issuing of the latter EAW is proportionate.