Language of document : ECLI:EU:C:2017:258

Provisional text

ORDER OF THE COURT (Seventh Chamber)

4 April 2017 (*)

(Appeal — Article 181 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice — Restrictive measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran — List of persons and entities subject to the freezing of funds and economic resources — Criterion relating to the material, logistical or financial support to the Government of Iran — Cooperation in research and technological development in military or military-related fields)

In Case C‑385/16 P,

APPEAL under Article 56 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, brought on 11 July 2016,

Sharif University of Technology, established in Tehran (Iran), represented by M. Happold, Barrister,

appellant,

the other party to the proceedings being:

Council of the European Union, represented by V. Piessevaux and M. Bishop, acting as Agents,

defendant at first instance,

THE COURT (Seventh Chamber),

Composed of A. Prechal, President of the Chamber, A. Rosas (Rapporteur) and C. Toader, judges,

Advocate General: M. Wathelet,

Registrar: A. Calot Escobar,

having regard to the written procedure,

having regard to the decision taken, after hearing the Advocate General, to give a decision on the action by reasoned order, pursuant to Article 181 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice,

makes the following

Order

1        By its appeal, Sharif University of Technology, established in Tehran (Iran), asks the Court to set aside the judgment of the General Court of the European Union of 28 April 2016, Sharif University of Technology v Council (T‑52/15, ‘the judgment under appeal’, EU:T:2016:254), by which the General Court dismissed its actions, seeking, first, annulment of Council Decision 2014/776/CFSP of 7 November 2014 amending Decision 2010/413/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2014 L 325, p. 19), in so far as it includes the appellant’s name on the list in Annex II to Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP of 26 July 2010 concerning restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Common Position 2007/140/CFSP (OJ 2010 L 195, p. 39), and annulment of Council Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1202/2014 of 7 November 2014 implementing Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran (OJ 2014 L 325, p. 3), in so far as it includes the appellant’s name on the list in Annex IX to Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 of 23 March 2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Regulation (EC) No 961/2010 (OJ 2012 L 88, p. 1) (together, ‘the acts at issue’), and, second, damages.

 Background to the dispute

2        Concerned by the numerous reports of the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors on the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which suggest that that State was not observing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, opened for signature on 1 July 1968 in London, Moscow and Washington (United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 729, p. 161) and to which it was a contracting party, the United Nations Security Council (‘the Security Council’), on 23 December 2006, adopted Resolution 1737 (2006). Point 12 of that resolution, read in conjunction with the annex thereto, lists a series of persons and entities allegedly involved in nuclear proliferation in Iran and whose funds and economic resources should be frozen.

3        Other resolutions were adopted subsequently, such as Resolutions 1747 (2007) and 1803 (2008), in order to extend the scope of the restrictive measures introduced by the Security Council. On 9 June 2010, that Council adopted Resolution 1929 (2010) introducing additional restrictive measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

4        On 17 June 2010, the European Council underlined its deepening concern about Iran’s nuclear programme and welcomed the adoption of Resolution 1929 (2010) adopted by the Security Council. The European Council invited the Council of the European Union to adopt measures implementing those contained in that resolution as well as accompanying measures, with a view to supporting the resolution of all outstanding concerns regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, through negotiation. Those measures were to focus on the areas of trade, the financial sector, the Iranian transport sector, key sectors in the oil and gas industry and additional designations, in particular for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (‘the IRGC’).

5        On 26 July 2010 the Council adopted Decision 2010/413, Annex II to which lists the persons and entities — other than those designated by the Security Council or by the Sanctions Committee created by Resolution 1737 (2006) mentioned in Annex I — whose assets were to be frozen.

6        On 23 January 2012, the Council adopted Decision 2012/35/CFSP amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2012 L 19, p. 22). According to recital 13 of Decision 2012/35, the restrictions on admission and the freezing of funds and economic resources were to be applied to additional persons and entities providing support to the Government of Iran allowing it to pursue proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, in particular persons and entities providing financial, logistical or material support to the Government of Iran.

7        Article l(7)(a)(ii) of Decision 2012/35 added the following provision to Article 20(1) of Decision 2010/413, which provides that the restrictive measures are aimed at:

‘(c)       other persons and entities not covered by Annex I that provide support to the Government of Iran, and persons and entities associated with them, as listed in Annex II.’

8        Consequently, under the FEU Treaty, the Council adopted Regulation No 267/2012. In order to implement Article l(7)(a)(ii) of Decision 2012/35, Article 23(2) of that regulation provides for the freezing of funds of persons, entities and bodies listed in Annex IX thereto, identified as:

‘…

(d)      being other persons, entities or bodies that provide support, such as material, logistical or financial support, to the Government of Iran, and persons and entities associated with them;

…’

9        On 15 October 2012 the Council adopted Decision 2012/635/CFSP amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2012 L 282, p. 58). Recital 6 of Decision 2012/635 stated that it was appropriate to review the prohibition on the sale, supply or transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran of additional dual-use goods and technology listed in Annex I to Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 of 5 May 2009 setting up a Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items (OJ 2009 L 134, p. 1), with a view to including items which might be relevant to industries controlled directly or indirectly by the IRGC or which might be relevant to Iran’s nuclear, military and ballistic missile programme, while taking into account the need to avoid unintended effects on the civilian population of Iran. Furthermore, recital 9 of Decision 2012/635 states that the sale, supply or transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran of key naval equipment and technology for ship-building, maintenance or refit, should be prohibited.

10      Article l(8)(a) of Decision 2012/635 amended Article 20(1)(c) of Decision 2010/413, which consequently provides that restrictive measures are to be imposed on:

‘(c)       other persons and entities not covered by Annex I that provide support to the Government of Iran and entities owned or controlled by them or persons and entities associated with them, as listed in Annex II.’

11      On 21 December 2012, the Council adopted Regulation (EU) No 1263/2012 amending Regulation No 267/2012 (OJ 2012 L 356, p. 34). Article 1(11) of Regulation No 1263/2012 amended Article 23(2)(d) of Regulation No 267/2012, which thus provides for the freezing of funds of persons, entities and bodies listed in Annex IX to the latter, identified as:

‘(d)       being other persons, entities or bodies that provide support, such as material, logistical or financial support, to the Government of Iran and entities owned or controlled by them, or persons and entities associated with them.’

12      The appellant’s name was included for the first time on the lists in Table I of Annex II to Decision 2010/413 by Decision 2012/829/CFSP of 21 December 2012 amending Decision 2010/413 (OJ 2012 L 356, p. 71), and on the lists in Table I of Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012 by Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1264/2012 of 21 December 2012 implementing Regulation No 267/2012 (OJ 2012 L 356, p. 55).

13      By judgment of 3 July 2014, Sharif University of Technology v Council (T‑181/13, not published, EU:T:2014:607), the General Court annulled Decision 2012/829 and Regulation No 1264/2012 in so far as they concern the appellant, on the ground that the Council had not adduced proof that the case against it for the purposes of justifying its inclusion on the lists at issue was well founded.

14      By letter of 4 September 2014, the Council informed the appellant of its intention to relist it on the basis of new grounds and invited it to submit its observations before 15 September 2014. In that letter, the Council also expressed the view that the appellant provided support to the Government of Iran by means of cooperation agreements concluded with Iranian governmental organisations designated by the United Nations and the European Union. The Council enclosed with that letter the documents contained in its file on which that relisting was based.

15      By letter of 15 September 2014, the appellant requested the Council to reconsider its decision.

16      On 7 November 2014 the Council adopted Decision 2014/776, by which the appellant’s name was once again included in Table I of Annex II to Decision 2010/413 containing the list of ‘persons and entities involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities and persons and entities providing support to the Government of Iran.’

17      As a consequence, on the same day, the Council adopted Implementing Regulation No 1202/2014, by which the appellant’s name was included once again in Table I of Annex IX to Regulation No 267/2012, containing the list of ‘persons and entities involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities and persons and entities providing support to the Government of Iran.’

18      In the acts at issue, the Council gave the following reasons for inclusion of the appellant’s name on the lists:

‘Sharif University of Technology … has a number of cooperation agreements with Iranian Government organisations which are designated by the UN and/or the EU and which operate in military or military-related fields, particularly in the field of ballistic missile production and procurement. This includes: an agreement with the EU-designated Aerospace Industries Organisation (AIO) for inter alia the production of satellites; co-operating with the Iranian Ministry of Defence and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on smart boat competitions; a broader agreement with the IRGC Air Force which covers developing and strengthening the University’s relations, organisational and strategic cooperation; [Sharif University of Technology] is part of a 6-university agreement which supports the Government of Iran through defence-related research; and [Sharif University of Technology] teaches graduate courses in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) engineering which were designed by the Ministry of Science among others. Taken together, these show a significant record of engagement with the Government of Iran in military or military-related fields that constitutes support to the Government of Iran.’

19      The AIO is included on the lists for the following reasons:

‘AIO oversees Iran’s production of missiles, including Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group and Fajr Industrial Group, which were all designated under [Security Council] Resolution 1737 (2006). The head of AIO and two other senior officials were also designated under [Security Council] Resolution 1737 (2006).’

20      IRGC is included on the lists for the following reasons:

‘Responsible for Iran’s nuclear programme. Has operational control for Iran’s ballistic missile programme. Has undertaken procurement attempts to support Iran’s ballistic missiles and nuclear programmes.’

21      By letter of 10 November 2014, the Council informed the appellant of its decision to relist it.

22      By letter of 2 February 2015, the appellant requested the Council to provide it with all the information and evidence on the basis of which it had decided to include the appellant’s name on the lists for a second time, and the identity of the Member State which had proposed its relisting.

 The procedure before the General Court and the judgment under appeal

23      By application lodged at the Registry of the General Court on 4 February 2015, Sharif University of Technology brought an action seeking, first, annulment of the acts at issue and, second, an order requiring the Council to pay it compensation to make good the damage to its reputation caused by the relisting of its name on the lists annexed to those acts.

24      Having requested access to the Council’s internal file, Sharif University of Technology, on 4 September 2015, lodged at the Registry a file containing the proposal and the revised proposal for relisting, and a note from the Secretariat-General to the Committee of Permanent Representatives and to the Council. However, the Council refused to disclose the identity of the Member State behind the proposal to relist the name of Sharif University of Technology on the lists at issue.

25      At the hearing on 3 December 2015, the Council stated, in response to a question from the General Court, that the file did not contain any documents other than those annexed to the letter sent to Sharif University of Technology on 4 September 2014 and those which had been lodged at the Registry of the General Court on 4 September 2015.

26      In support of its action for annulment, Sharif University of Technology relied on four pleas in law alleging, first, infringement of the rights of the defence and the right to effective judicial protection, second, an error of law and manifest errors of assessment, third, infringement of the right to property and the principle of proportionality, and fourth, misuse of powers by the Council.

27      The General Court rejected each of those pleas and consequently dismissed the action for annulment. Taking the view that, in that case, the condition relating to the illegality of the inclusion of Sharif University of Technology’s name on the lists of the acts at issue had not been satisfied, the General Court declared that the conditions for the EU to incur liability had, therefore, not been met. Consequently, the General Court also dismissed the appellant’s claim for damages.

 Forms of order sought

28      Sharif University of Technology claims that the Court should:

–      set aside the judgment under appeal;

–      grant the orders sought by it in the proceedings before the General Court; and

–      order the Council to pay the costs of both sets of proceedings.

29      The Council contends that the Court should:

–      dismiss the appeal as being unfounded; and

–      order Sharif University of Technology to pay the costs.

 The appeal

30       Under Article 181 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice, where an appeal is, in whole or in part, manifestly inadmissible or manifestly unfounded, the Court may at any time, acting on a report from the Judge-Rapporteur and after hearing the Advocate General, decide by reasoned order to dismiss that appeal in whole or in part.

31      It is appropriate to apply that provision in the present case.

32      Sharif University of Technology submits two grounds in support of its appeal.

 The first ground of appeal

 Arguments of the parties

33      By its first ground of appeal, Sharif University of Technology claims that the General Court wrongly failed to respond to its plea in law alleging that the Council had failed to comply with essential procedural requirements for the acts at issue and/or had made a manifest error of assessment when it decided to relist the appellant on the lists of entities subject to restrictive measures, in that it had not followed the decision-making process which it was obliged to respect.

34      The appellant submits that, in its pleadings before the General Court, it claimed that it was clear from the documents before the Council, some of which were belatedly communicated to the appellant, that the Council had failed to fulfill its obligation to assess, as a collegiate body, the proposal submitted by a Member State to relist the appellant on the lists at issue and the evidence which supported that proposal and which had been provided by that Member State. The appellant accordingly argued that the Council had confined itself to rubber-stamping the position of that Member State. The appellant refers to the judgments of 18 February 2016, Council v Bank Mellat (C‑176/13 P, EU:C:2016:96) and of 21 April 2016, Council v Bank Saderat Iran (C‑200/13 P, EU:C:2016:284). In paragraphs 89 and 82, respectively, of those judgments, the Court held that it did not appear that checking the relevance and validity of the material relating to the entities concerned that had been submitted to the Council prior to the adoption of the acts by which they were relisted on the lists of entities subject to restrictive measures could constitute an essential procedural requirement for the adoption of those acts, the non-compliance with which could result in those acts being unlawful. However, Sharif University of Technology submits that the plea which it raised before the General Court is different to the one raised in those judgments, in that it claims solely that the Council should have examined the evidence presented by the Member State which had proposed that it be reinstated on the lists at issue in order to determine whether that evidence supported the grounds for the proposed listing. The appellant infers from paragraphs 102 and 103 of the judgment under appeal, in which the General Court found that one of the grounds for including its name on the lists of the acts at issue had not been substantiated, that the Council had not, in fact, examined, as a collegiate body, each of the grounds for inclusions and the evidence adduced in support thereof.

35      According to the appellant, the General Court erred in failing to answer the plea which it had raised at the hearing.

36      The Council, which submits that the appeal does not make it possible to determine with certainty whether the ground of appeal raised concerns the lack of a reply by the General Court or the infringement of the obligation to state reasons for its judgments, contends that the General Court did not infringe its obligation to state reasons when it replied to the plea alleging a manifest error of assessment and that, in any event, the plea alleging infringement of an essential procedural requirement is unfounded.

 Findings of the Court

37      Sharif University of Technology criticises the General Court for failing to respond to one of its pleas in law allegedly put forward at the hearing.

38      In the context of an appeal, the purpose of review by the Court of Justice is, primarily, to examine to what extent the General Court took into consideration, in a legally correct manner, all of the arguments upon which the appellant relies (judgment of 2 April 2009, France Telecom v Commission, C‑202/07 P, EU:C:2009:214, paragraph 41 and the case-law cited). However, those arguments must be sufficiently clear and precise (judgments of 9 September 2008, FIAMM and Others v Council and Commission, C‑120/06 P and C‑121/06 P, EU:C:2008:476, paragraph 91, and of 2 April 2009, France Telecom v Commission, C‑202/07 P, EU:C:2009:214, paragraph 30) and they must be admissible (judgment of 1 July 2008, Chronopost and La Poste v UFEX and Others, C‑341/06 P and C‑342/06 P, EU:C:2008:375, paragraph 69).

39      It must be stated that the plea in law which the appellant claims to have put forward and which it describes by referring to the judgments of 18 February 2016, Council v Bank Mellat (C‑176/13 P, EU:C:2016:96, paragraphs 88 and 89), and of 21 April 2016, Council v Bank Saderat Iran (C‑200/13 P, EU:C:2016:284, paragraphs 81 and 82), alleges infringement of essential procedural requirements of the acts at issue, at the time of their adoption by the Council, and not the manifest error of assessment which the latter allegedly made by re-including the appellant on the lists of entities subject to restrictive measures. Such a plea was raised neither in the application initiating the proceedings nor in the reply.

40      Consequently, the plea allegedly raised by the appellant before the General Court was new. In that regard, it should be borne in mind that, under Article 84(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the General Court of 4 March 2015 (OJ 2015 L 105, p. 1), applicable on the date of the hearing, ‘[n]o new plea in law may be introduced in the course of proceedings unless it is based on matters of law or of fact which come to light in the course of the procedure.’

41      It follows that the General Court was required to reply to such a plea, allegedly raised at the hearing, only if it was based on matters of law or fact which had come to light in the course of the procedure, as provided for in Article 84(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the General Court.

42      Although documents were produced by the Council on 4 September 2015, that is to say, in the course of the proceedings, the General Court found, in paragraph 34 of the judgment under appeal, that those documents contained no additional relevant information as compared with the information provided to the appellant by letter of 4 September 2014. It follows that the ground alleging infringement of essential procedural requirements, in so far as it was not raised in the application initiating proceedings or based on matters of law or fact which had come to light in the course of the procedure, would in any event have had to be rejected as being inadmissible.

43      It follows from all of the foregoing that the first ground of appeal must be rejected as being manifestly unfounded.

 The second ground of appeal

 Arguments of the parties

44      By its second ground of appeal, Sharif University of Technology claims that the General Court misinterpreted the criterion of providing support to the Government of Iran within the meaning of Article 20(1)(c) of Decision 2010/413, as amended by Decision 2012/635, and of Article 23(2)(d) of Regulation No 267/2012, as amended by Regulation No 1263/2012 (‘the criterion at issue’), relied on by the Council to justify the appellant’s reinstatement on the lists of entities subject to restrictive measures. In view of that error of law, the appellant considers that the General Court was wrong to hold that the evidence submitted by the Council confirmed the merits of that reinstatement.

45      Sharif University of Technology submits that the General Court committed three errors of law in interpreting the criterion at issue, and more particularly the concept of ‘support’ to the Government of Iran used in that criterion. The first error, it argues, follows from the General Court holding that the presumption that support to that government occurs when a person or entity facilitates nuclear proliferation activities in Iran ‘applied to all forms of conduct.’ The second error, in its view, results from the General Court’s finding that support to that government also covers the field of research and development on items on the EU’s Common Military List. The third error, in its view, follows from the General Court’s finding that cooperation with entities already listed because of their involvement in Iran’s ballistic and nuclear missile programmes permitted the assumption that such cooperation concerned research and development of items on the Common Military List in the absence of evidence to that effect.

46      In the first place, as regards the forms of conduct which may be regarded as constituting support to the Government of Iran, Sharif University of Technology submits that the reasoning put forward by the General Court in paragraphs 50, 51, 54 and 55 of the judgment under appeal is contradictory. In its view, paragraphs 54 and 55 of that judgment are inconsistent with paragraph 50 thereof, in which the General Court stated that, according to the case-law, the criterion at issue does not cover all forms of support to that government, but only those which, by their quantitative or qualitative significance, contribute to the pursuit of Iran’s nuclear activities.

47      In the second place, Sharif University of Technology disputes paragraph 65 of the judgment under appeal. In that paragraph, the General Court held that ‘the provision of support to the Government of Iran in respect of research and technology development in military or military-related fields [satisfied] the [criterion at issue] where it [related] to equipment or technology on the Common Military List, the procurement of which by the Islamic Republic of Iran is prohibited.’ The appellant criticises the General Court for having interpreted Decision 2010/413 by referring to a subsequent text. According to the appellant, that criterion, interpreted in the light of recital 13 of Decision 2012/35 and recital 16 of Decision 2012/635, is intended to deprive the Government of Iran of its sources of revenue (see judgment of 1 March 2016, National Iranian Oil Company v Council, C‑440/14 P, EU:C:2016:128, paragraphs 81 and 82). It also submits that that criterion was introduced by Decision 2012/35 and amended by Decision 2012/635 in order to supplement, and not replace, the existing criteria, with the result that there is no need to use a broad interpretation of it. Sharif University of Technology is of the opinion that material, financial, logistical or other conduct of particular quantitative or qualitative significance which would permit the pursuit of nuclear proliferation would satisfy the criterion at issue.

48      In the third place, the appellant takes issue with paragraph 68 of the judgment under appeal, according to which, even if the Council was unable to establish that Sharif University of Technology’s activities related to satellites or smart boats which in fact met the specifications of the Common Military List, the fact that those activities were conducted in cooperation with the AIO, as regards the production of satellites, or with the Iranian Ministry of Defence and the IRGC in the context of the smart boat competition permitted the view that, if the Council’s claims relating to that cooperation were sufficiently substantiated, the extent of the support thus provided to the Government of Iran was sufficient to satisfy the criterion at issue. The appellant submits that not all forms of cooperation on military equipment constitute support within the meaning of that criterion, since the development of the items concerned cannot be regarded as facilitating nuclear proliferation activities.

49      Sharif University of Technology also takes issue with paragraph 70 of the judgment under appeal. In that paragraph, the General Court found that the direct involvement of the AIO as regards the production of missiles and of the IRGC in Iran’s nuclear programme and in the operational control of Iran’s ballistic missile programme permitted the assumption that the activities conducted in cooperation with those entities of the Government of Iran in relation to the production of satellites and the development of smart boats were of clear benefit, in so far as concerns the pursuit of the proliferation-sensitive nuclear programme or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.

50      Finally, Sharif University of Technology, challenges paragraphs 82 and 98 of the judgment under appeal, by which, it claims, the General Court established presumptions that cooperation with entities already included on the lists or research and development of goods on the Common Military List would necessarily involve providing support to the Government of Iran in facilitating nuclear proliferation. In so doing, it argues, the General Court reversed the burden of proof, which is contrary to the case-law of the Court of Justice (judgment of 18 July 2013, Commission and Others v Kadi, C‑584/10 P, C‑593/10 P and C‑595/10 P, EU:C:2013:518, paragraphs 119 and 120).

51      The Council maintains that the General Court did not err in law in interpreting the criterion at issue, pursuant to which the appellant was reinstated on the lists of entities subject to restrictive measures.

52      The Council contends that the first part of the appellant’s second ground of appeal is unclear, fails to identify precisely the paragraphs of the judgment under appeal that are disputed and does not set out coherent legal arguments. It also points out that paragraph 54 of the judgment under appeal was confirmed by paragraphs 85 and 86 of the judgment of 1 March 2016, National Iranian Oil Company v Council (C‑440/14 P, EU:C:2016:128).

53      In reply to the second part of that ground of appeal, the Council refers to the various provisions adopted by the Security Council or the European Union which prohibit the provision of technical assistance to the Government of Iran in connection with military armaments. Given the connection between certain military equipment and nuclear proliferation, stated in paragraph 63 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court did not, according to the Council, err in law in holding, in paragraph 65 of that judgment, that the provision of support to the Government of Iran in respect of research and technology development in military or military-related fields satisfied the criterion at issue where it relates to equipment or technology on the Common Military List, the procurement of which by the Islamic Republic of Iran is prohibited.

54      According to the Council, the appellant errs in its interpretation of paragraph 68 of the judgment under appeal. The Council considers that the General Court pointed out in that paragraph that the definition of support to the Government of Iran — which follows from the case-law, referring to forms of support which, by their quantitative or qualitative significance, contribute to the pursuit of nuclear activities, referred to in paragraph 50 of the judgment under appeal — did not apply in the case of support to the Government of Iran in respect of research and technology development in military or military-related fields, relating to equipment or technology on the Common Military List, the procurement of which by the Islamic Republic of Iran is prohibited.

 Findings of the Court

55      The arguments summarised in paragraphs 44 to 50 of the present order relate, in substance, to the connection between the criterion at issue and nuclear proliferation, second, to the need for significant quantitative or qualitative support to the Government of Iran, third, to the possibility of taking account of cooperation in the field of research and technological development and, fourth, to the rules on the burden of proof applied by the General Court.

56      With regard, in the first place, to the connection between the criterion at issue and nuclear proliferation, it should be borne in mind that the restrictive measures adopted both by the Security Council and by the European Union are progressive and justified by the lack of success of the measures adopted previously (judgment of 28 November 2013, Council v Manufacturing Support & Procurement Kala Naft, C‑348/12 P, EU:C:2013:776, paragraph 126). Accordingly, the criteria on the basis of which persons and entities that may be the subject of restrictive measures are identified have evolved over time and have been extended.

57      It must be borne in mind that, as the acts at issue were adopted on 7 November 2014, account must be taken of the criteria laid down in Article 20(1)(c) of Decision 2010/413, as amended by Decision 2012/635, namely ‘support to the Government of Iran’, and in Article 23(2)(d) of Regulation No 267/2012, as amended by Regulation No 1263/2012, namely ‘support, such as material, logistical or financial support, to the Government of Iran’.

58      The criterion at issue forms part of a legal framework clearly delimited by the objectives pursued by the rules governing the restrictive measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In particular, recital 13 of Decision 2012/35, which inserted, for the first time, that criterion into Article 20(1) of Decision 2010/413, states expressly that the freezing of funds has to be applied to persons and entities ‘providing support to the Government of Iran allowing it to pursue proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, in particular persons and entities providing financial, logistical or material support to the Government of Iran’ (judgment of 1 March 2016, National Iranian Oil Company v Council, C‑440/14 P, EU:C:2016:128, paragraph 79).

59      Similarly, in paragraph 81 of that judgment of 1 March 2016, National Iranian Oil Company v Council (C‑440/14 P, EU:C:2016:128), the Court did not call into question the interpretation carried out by the General Court in that case, presented in paragraph 80 of that judgment, that the objective of the amendment of the criterion at issue had been to expand the designation criterion, in order to target the relevant person’s or entity’s own activity which, even if it had no actual direct or indirect connection with nuclear proliferation, was nonetheless capable of encouraging it, by providing the Government of Iran with resources or facilities of a material, financial or logistic nature allowing it to pursue proliferation activities.

60      The General Court therefore did not commit any error in law when it held, in paragraph 52 of the judgment under appeal, that the application of the criterion at issue did not imply a certain degree of connection, even indirect connection, with Iran’s nuclear activities.

61      That assessment is supported by the Court’s case-law on restrictive measures concerning undertakings which provided the Government of Iran with, inter alia, material support (judgment of 7 April 2016, Central Bank of Iran v Council, C‑266/15 P, EU:C:2016:208, paragraph 45), financial support (judgments of 1 March 2016, National Iranian Oil Company v Council, C‑440/14 P, EU:C:2016:128, paragraph 85, and of 12 May 2016, Bank ofIndustry and Mine v Council, C‑358/15 P, not published, EU:C:2016:338, paragraphs 80 to 82) or logistical support (judgment of 8 September 2016, Iranian Offshore Engineering & Construction v Council, C‑459/15 P, not published, EU:C:2016:646, paragraphs 53 to 56), without any direct or indirect connection with nuclear proliferation.

62      As regards research and technological development in military or military-related fields, it must first be stated that the expression ‘nuclear proliferation’, used in the context of the restrictive measures adopted against the Islamic Republic of Iran, refers to the activities of that State in infringement of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, with the result that that term itself refers to a category of military armaments. Moreover, recital 13 of Decision 2012/35, mentioned in paragraph 58 of the present order, refers to ‘support to the Government of Iran allowing it to pursue proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.’

63      Consequently, the General Court did not commit an error of law when, after noting, in paragraph 62 of the judgment under appeal, that EU law prohibits the supply, sale or transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran of arms and military material, and, in paragraph 64 of that judgment, the relevant Security Council resolutions in that regard, it held, in paragraph 65 of that judgment, that ‘the provision of support to the Government of Iran in respect of research and technology development in military or military-related fields satisfies the [criterion at issue] where it relates to equipment or technology on the Common Military List, the procurement of which by the Islamic Republic of Iran is prohibited’.

64      As regards, in the second place, the need to provide support to the Government of Iran of a certain quantitative or qualitative significance in order to satisfy the criterion at issue justifying the inclusion on a list of persons or entities subject to restrictive measures, it should be noted that it does not appear to follow either from the wording of Article 20(1)(c) of Decision 2010/413, as amended by Decision 2012/635, or from that of Article 23(2)(d) of Regulation No 267/2012, as amended by Regulation No 1263/2012. It is an interpretation by the General Court, endorsed by the Court of Justice, in the light of the objectives pursued by the Council, in response to arguments challenging the validity of the criterion at issue on the ground that an Iranian taxpayer or official would be liable to be included on such a list in accordance with that criterion (judgment of 1 March 2016, National Iranian Oil Company v Council, C‑440/14 P, EU:C:2016:128, paragraphs 68 and 83).

65      It is in the light of that interpretation that the General Court carried out its review. Thus, it stated, in paragraph 45 of the judgment under appeal, that, according to the statement of reasons for the acts at issue, the Council had reinstated the appellant on the lists at issue on the ground that its ‘significant record of engagement with the Government of Iran in military or military-related fields’ constituted support to the Government of Iran, for the purposes of the criterion at issue.

66      In paragraph 69 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court noted that both the AIO and the IRGC were included on the lists of the acts at issue, on the ground, respectively, that the first oversees the production of missiles in Iran and the second is responsible for Iran’s nuclear programme and has operational control of Iran’s ballistic missile programme. In paragraph 70 of that judgment, while pointing out that those facts were not contested by the appellant, the General Court concluded that the activities conducted in cooperation with those entities of the Government of Iran in relation to the production of satellites and the development of smart boats are of clear benefit in so far as concerns the pursuit of the proliferation-sensitive nuclear programme or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.

67      In paragraphs 77 to 83 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court examined the evidence relating to the agreement with the AIO for the production of satellites, in paragraphs 84 to 91 of that judgment, the evidence relating to cooperation with the Iranian Ministry of Defence and the IRGC concerning smart boat competitions and, in paragraphs 93 to 98 of that judgment, the evidence relating to the agreement between the appellant and the IRGC air force. As a result of that thorough examination of the factual data, which it is not for the Court to review in the context of an appeal, the General Court did not err in law when it declared that the criterion at issue had been satisfied.

68      In the third place, with regard to the question of whether cooperation in the field of research and technological development may constitute support to the Government of Iran, within the meaning of the criterion at issue, it must be held that Article 20(1)(c) of Decision 2010/413, as amended by Decision 2012/635, and Article 23(2)(d) of Regulation No 267/2012, as amended by Regulation No 1263/2012, do not specify either the form of support to the Government or the areas in which such support may be provided. Only Article 23(2)(d) of Regulation No 267/2012, as amended by Regulation No 1263/2012, states that support to the Government may be ‘support, such as material, logistical or financial support.’

69      As the Council explained the restrictive measures to which the appellant is subject by the ‘significant record of engagement with the Government of Iran in military or military-related fields’, which it had demonstrated, the question whether fundamental research or technological development may, as such, constitute support to that government, within the meaning of the criterion at issue, is irrelevant.

70      As regards, in the fourth place, the appellant’s argument concerning the burden of proof, it should be borne in mind that the appellant disputes paragraphs 82 and 98 of the judgment under appeal, taking the view that the General Court erred in law by using legal presumptions and, in so doing, infringed the rules on the burden of proof laid down by the Court of Justice.

71      In that regard, it should be noted that the effectiveness of the judicial review guaranteed by Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union requires that, as part of the review of the lawfulness of the grounds which are the basis of the decision to include a person’s name on the list of persons subject to restrictive measures, the Courts of the European Union are required to ensure that that decision, which affects that person individually, is taken on a sufficiently solid factual basis. That entails, in this instance, a verification of the factual allegations in the summary of reasons underpinning the acts at issue, in order to review whether those reasons, or, at the very least, one of those reasons, deemed sufficient in itself to support those acts, is substantiated (see, to that effect, judgments of 18 July 2013, Commission and Others v Kadi, C‑584/10 P, C‑593/10 P and C‑595/10 P, EU:C:2013:518, paragraphs 119 and 120; of 28 November 2013, Council v Manufacturing Support & Procurement Kala Naft, C‑348/12 P, EU:C:2013:776, paragraph 73; of 21 April 2015, Anbouba v Council, C‑630/13 P, EU:C:2015:247, paragraph 45; and of 21 April 2015, Anbouba v Council, C‑605/13 P, EU:C:2015:248, paragraph 45).

72      In the present case, in paragraphs 77 to 98 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court examined the agreement concluded between the appellant and the AIO for the production of satellites, the evidence relating to cooperation with the Iranian Ministry of Defence and the IRGC concerning smart boat competitions and the agreement between the appellant and the IRGC air force, which are among the reasons, given in the acts at issue, to justify the re-inclusion of Sharif University of Technology on the lists of persons and entities subject to restrictive measures. It follows from that detailed examination of the facts, which the General Court undertook on the basis of the evidence produced by the Council, that the General Court did not infringe the rules of law relating to the burden of proof.

73      It follows from all of the foregoing that the appellant has not established that the General Court erred in law in the interpretation or application of the criterion at issue, with the result that the second ground of appeal must be rejected as being manifestly unfounded.

74      Consequently, the appeal must be dismissed.

 Costs

75      In accordance with Article 184(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice, where the appeal is unfounded, the Court is to make a decision as to costs.

76      Under Article 138(1) of those Rules of Procedure, applicable to appeal proceedings by virtue of Article 184(1) thereof, the unsuccessful party is to be ordered to pay the costs if they have been applied for in the successful party’s pleadings.

77      Since the Council has applied for costs to be awarded against Sharif University of Technology, and since the latter has been unsuccessful, Sharif University of Technology must be ordered to bear its own costs and to pay those incurred by the Council.

On those grounds, the Court (Seventh Chamber) hereby orders:

1.      The appeal is dismissed.

2.      Sharif University of Technology shall bear its own costs and pay those incurred by the Council of the European Union.


Luxembourg, 4 April 2017.


A. Calot Escobar

 

       A. Prechal

Registrar

 

      President of the Seventh Chamber


* Language of the case: English.