Language of document : ECLI:EU:T:1998:249

ORDER OF THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE (Fourth Chamber)

23 October 1998 (1)

(Agriculture - Regulation having general application - Action brought by a regional body - Inadmissibility)

In Case T-609/97,

Regione Puglia, represented by Francesco Rosi and Antonio Campagnola, of the Rome Bar, with an address for service in Luxembourg at the Chambers of Penning & Associés, 31 Grand-Rue,

applicant,

v

Commission of the European Communities, represented by Francesco P. Ruggeri Laderchi, of its Legal Service, acting as Agent, with an address for service in Luxembourg at the office of Carlos Gómez de la Cruz, of its Legal Service, Wagner Centre, Kirchberg,

and

Kingdom of Spain,

defendants,

APPLICATION for the annulment of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1979/97 of 10 October 1997 fixing the estimated production of olive oil and the amount of the unit production aid that may be paid in advance for the 1996/97 marketing year (OJ 1997 L 278, p. 12),

THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE

OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES (Fourth Chamber),

composed of: R.M. Moura Ramos, President, V. Tiili and P. Mengozzi, Judges,

Registrar: H. Jung,

makes the following

Order

Relevant provisions and procedure

1.
    Article 5 of Council Regulation No 136/66/EEC of 22 September 1966 on the establishment of a common organisation of the market in oils and fats (OJ, English Special Edition 1965-66 (I), p. 221, 'the basic regulation‘), as amended on several occasions, introduced a system of aid for olive oil. That article requires the Council to fix the maximum quantity of olive oil covered by the aid, the amount of which must be proportionately reduced where production exceeds the maximum quantity.

2.
    Council Regulation (EEC) No 2261/84 of 17 July 1984 laying down general rules on the granting of aid for the production of olive oil and of aid to olive oil producer organisations (OJ 1984 L 208, p. 3, 'the implementing regulation‘), as amended on several occasions, requires the Commission to determine, by 1 July, the estimated production and the amount of the unit production aid that may be paid in advance for the current marketing year.

3.
    Commission Regulation (EC) No 1979/97 of 10 October 1997 (OJ 1997 L 278, p. 12, 'the contested regulation‘) fixed the estimated production of olive oil andthe amount of the unit production aid that may be paid in advance for the 1996/97 marketing year on the basis of the data forwarded by the Member States.

4.
    By application lodged at the Court Registry on 23 December 1997, the applicant brought this action under Article 173 of the EC Treaty against the Commission and the Kingdom of Spain for the annulment of the contested regulation.

5.
    By document lodged at the Court Registry on 3 March 1998, the Commission raised a plea of inadmissibility under Article 114(1) of the Rules of Procedure. The applicant lodged its observations on that plea on 8 May 1998.

6.
    By application lodged at the Court Registry on 23 April 1998, the Kingdom of Spain sought leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

Forms of order sought by the parties

7.
    The applicant claims that the Court should:

-    dismiss the plea of inadmissibility;

-    annul the contested regulation in its entirety or, in the alternative, annul it in so far as it recognises as correct the data provided by the Kingdom of Spain;

-    adopt such other measure 'as the Court may deem appropriate and fair‘;

-    order the Commission to pay the costs.

8.
    The Commission contends that the Court should:

-    dismiss the application as inadmissible;

-    order the applicant to pay the costs.

Admissibility of the action in so far as it is directed against the Kingdom of Spain

9.
    Under Article 111 of the Rules of Procedure, where it is clear that the Court of First Instance has no jurisdiction to take cognisance of an action, it may, by reasoned order and without taking further steps in the proceedings, give a decision on the action.

10.
    The areas in which the Court of First Instance has jurisdiction are listed in the Treaties and in Article 3 of Council Decision 88/591/ECSC, EEC, Euratom of 24 October 1998 establishing a Court of First Instance of the European Communities (OJ 1988 L 319, p. 1), as amended by Council Decision 93/350/ECSC, EEC, Euratom of 8 June 1993 (OJ 1993 L 144, p. 21). Pursuant to those provisions, the Court of First Instance has jurisdiction only in actions brought by natural or legal persons against an institution or a body of the European Communities created by the Treaties or the acts adopted in implementation thereof. The Court of First Instance therefore does not have jurisdiction in an action brought by a natural or legal person against a Member State (see Case T-69/98 Müller v Council and Germany, not published in the European Court Reports, paragraph 4).

11.
    The Court therefore clearly has no jurisdiction in this action in so far as it is directed against the Kingdom of Spain. It is not necessary for the application to have been served on the Kingdom of Spain prior to this order.

Admissibility of the action in so far as it is directed against the Commission

Arguments of the parties

12.
    The Commission points out that the applicant has not indicated in its application whether it based its action for annulment on the second or the fourth paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty. If the action is based on the second paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty, the applicant - in the Commission's submission - does not have standing to bring proceedings, since it cannot in any way be treated as if it were a Member State. If the action is based on the fourth paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty, the applicant does not satisfy the conditions governing admissibility laid down therein since the contested regulation, which clearly is of general application, is not of individual concern to it. The action must therefore be dismissed as inadmissible, whatever its legal basis may be.

13.
    The applicant claims that it has standing to bring proceedings against the contested regulation on the basis of the second paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty by virtue of an alleged 'delegation of authority‘ from the Italian Republic, which has entrusted it with responsibility for exercising its powers 'relating to the implementation of Community acts‘, inter alia in the context of agriculture, thus enabling it to 'challenge such acts before the Community judicature‘ where it considers that they adversely affect its interests.

14.
    In the alternative, the applicant claims that its action should be deemed admissible at least on the basis of the fourth paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty. The contested regulation is 'in the nature of a decision‘ in so far as the amount of the unit production aid that may be paid in advance, which is based on the estimated olive-oil production of each Member State concerned, is determined by referenceto a 'certain number of producers‘. The applicant is individually concerned by the regulation by reason of the 'agricultural economy‘ of the Puglia region, where 'olive growing is of fundamental importance and accounts for over a fifth of all farmland‘, and which, in absolute terms, is the largest olive-oil producer in the Community, together with Andalusia. Its standing to bring proceedings is therefore based on the 'territorial nature‘ of its specific interest in challenging the contested regulation, which, by reducing the amount of aid that may be paid in advance, 'adversely affects the regional economy‘: that specific interest represents the 'sum of the interests of producers‘ of olive oil and distinguishes the applicant in such a way as to render it unnecessary to consider whether or not it is a direct olive-oil producer.

Findings of the Court

15.
    Article 114 of the Rules of Procedure provides that, where a party applies to the Court of First Instance for a decision on admissibility not going to the substance of the case, the remainder of the proceedings concerning the plea of inadmissibility are to be oral, unless the Court otherwise decides. In the present case, the Court considers that it has sufficient information in the documents before it and that it is therefore appropriate to rule on the application without initiating an oral procedure and without taking the preliminary measures of inquiry suggested by the applicant.

16.
    The applicant cannot, in its capacity as a regional body, rely on the second paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty. It is clear from the general scheme of the Treaty that the term 'Member State‘, for the purposes of the provisions relating to proceedings before the Community courts, refers only to the government authorities of the Member States of the European Communities and cannot be extended to the governments of regions, irrespective of the powers they may have (order in Case C-95/97 Région Wallonne v Commission [1997] ECR I-1787, paragraph 6; order in Case C-180/97 Regione Toscana v Commission [1997] ECR I-5245, paragraph 6; judgment in Case T-214/95 Vlaams Gewest v Commission [1998] ECR II-717, paragraph 28; and order in Case T-238/97 Comunidad Autónoma de Cantabria v Council [1998] ECR II-2271, paragraph 42).

17.
    On the other hand, since it possesses legal personality under Italian national law - which the Commission does not dispute -, the applicant may, in principle, bring an action for annulment under the fourth paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty, which provides that any natural or legal person may institute proceedings against a decision addressed to that person or against a decision which, although in the form of a regulation or a decision addressed to another person, is of direct and individual concern to the former.

18.
    In the contested regulation, the Commission fixed the estimated production of olive oil and the amount of the unit production aid that may be paid in advance for the 1996/97 marketing year. Contrary to the applicant's claims, the regulation in question is quite clearly addressed to all olive-oil producers established in the Community who are eligible for production aid, and there are therefore no grounds for regarding it as being 'in the nature of a decision‘.

19.
    As regards whether the contested regulation is of direct and individual concern to the applicant within the meaning of the fourth paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty, the applicant claims that the contested regulation is of individual concern to it because the reduction in the amount of aid that may be paid in advance to olive-oil producers has significant socio-economic consequences for the Puglia region, which, it submits, is the largest olive-oil producer in the Community, along with Andalusia.

20.
    The Court finds that the contested regulation relates essentially to the amount of the unit production aid that may be paid in advance to olive-oil producers, as from October 1997, for the 1996/1997 marketing year, subject to recovery of any difference between the amount paid in advance and the amount definitively established at the end of the marketing year. The contested regulation is therefore of concern to Community olive-oil producers.

21.
    As the Court recently held in Comunidad Autónoma de Cantabria v Council, cited above (paragraph 49), the general interest which a region, as a body responsible for the economic and social affairs within its jurisdiction, may have in obtaining a result that is favourable to the economic prosperity of the region, is not sufficient on its own to enable that body to be regarded as being concerned, or - a fortiori - individually concerned, for the purposes of the fourth paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty, by the provisions of the contested regulation (see also, to the same effect, Case C-295/92 Landbouwschap v Commission [1992] ECR I-5003, paragraph 12, and Joined Cases 197/80 to 200/80, 243/80, 245/80 and 247/80 Ludwigshafener Walzmühle Erling and Others v Council and Commission [1981] ECR 1041, paragraphs 8 and 9).

22.
    It is not therefore sufficient, in order for an action brought by a regional authority of a Member State such as Regione Puglia to be held to be admissible, for that authority to rely on the fact that the application or the implementation of a Community act is capable of having a general effect on the socio-economic conditions in its region (see Comunidad Autónoma de Cantabria v Council, paragraph 50).

23.
    It follows from all the foregoing considerations that the action must be dismissed as inadmissible in so far as it is directed against the Commission.

Application by the Kingdom of Spain for leave to intervene

24.
    Since the Court clearly has no jurisdiction in this action in so far as it is directed against the Kingdom of Spain, and since the action must be declared inadmissible in so far as it is directed against the Commission, there is no need to rule on the application by the Kingdom of Spain for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the Commission (see, in this connection, Comunidad Autónoma de Cantabria v Council, paragraph 54).

Costs

25.
    Under the first paragraph of Article 87(2) of the Rules of Procedure, the unsuccessful party is to be ordered to pay the costs if they have been applied for in the successful party's pleadings. Since the applicant has been unsuccessful and the Commission has applied for costs, the applicant must be ordered to pay the costs.

26.
    In view of the fact that there is no need to rule on the application to intervene, the applicant for leave to intervene shall bear its own costs.

On those grounds,

THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE (Fourth Chamber)

hereby orders:

1.    The application is dismissed as inadmissible.

2.    The applicant is ordered to pay the costs.

3.    The applicant to intervene shall bear its own costs.

Luxembourg, 23 October 1998.

H. Jung

R.M. Moura Ramos

Registrar

President


1: Language of the case: Italian.