ORDER OF THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber)

21 October 2014(*) (1)

(Intervention — Interest in the result of the case — Representative associations whose object is the protection of their members’ interests — Confidentiality)

In Case T‑429/13,

Bayer CropScience AG, established in Monheim am Rhein (Germany), represented by K. Nordlander, lawyer, and P. Harrison, Solicitor,

applicant,

v

European Commission, represented by P. Ondrůšek and G. von Rintelen, acting as Agents,

defendant,

APPLICATION for annulment of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 485/2013 of 24 May 2013 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) No 540/2011, as regards the conditions of approval of the active substances clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, and prohibiting the use and sale of seeds treated with plant protection products containing those active substances (OJ 2013 L 139, p. 12),

THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber)

composed of H. Kanninen, President, I. Pelikánová (Rapporteur) and E. Buttigieg; Judges,

Registrar: E. Coulon

makes the following

Order

 Facts and procedure

1        On 19 August 2013, the applicant, Bayer CropScience AG, brought an action under Article 263 TFEU for annulment of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 485/2013 of 24 May 2013 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) No 540/2011, as regards the conditions of approval of the active substances clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, and prohibiting the use and sale of seeds treated with plant protection products containing those active substances (OJ 2013 L 139, p. 12).

2        In accordance with Article 24(6) of the Rules of Procedure of the General Court, a summary of the application initiating proceedings in Case T‑429/13 was published in the Official Journal of the European Union of 9 November 2013 (OJ 2013 C 325, p. 37).

3        By document lodged at the Court Registry on 19 December 2013, Makhteshim‑Agan Italia Srl applied for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

4        By document lodged at the Court Registry on 19 December 2013, KWS Saat AG sought leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

5        By document lodged at the Court Registry on 20 December 2013, the Union nationale de l’apiculture française (UNAF) sought leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the European Commission.

6        By document lodged at the Court Registry on 20 December 2013, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) applied for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

7        By document lodged at the Court Registry on 20 December 2013, the Deutscher Berufs- und Erwerbsimkerbund eV (DBEB), Mellifera eV — Vereinigung für wesensgerechte Bienenhaltung (‘Mellifera’) and the Österreichischer Erwerbsimkerbund (ÖEB) sought leave to intervene jointly in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

8        By document lodged at the Court Registry on 31 December 2013, Rapool-Ring GmbH applied for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

9        By document lodged at the Court Registry on 26 December 2013, the European Seed Association (ESA) applied for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

10      By document lodged at the Court Registry on 26 December 2013, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) sought leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

11      By document lodged at the Court Registry on 30 December 2013, the Association générale des producteurs de maïs et autres céréales cultivées de la sous-famille des panicoïdées (AGPM) applied for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

12      By document lodged at the Court Registry on 31 December 2013, Stichting Greenpeace Council applied for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

13      By document lodged at the Court Registry on 31 December 2013, Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe), BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination (BeeLife), Buglife — The Invertebrate Conservation Trust (Buglife), ClientEarth and SumOfUs sought leave to intervene jointly in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

14      By document lodged at the Court Registry on 25 February 2014, the OÖ Landesverband für Bienenzucht (OÖL) and the Österreichischer Imkerbund (ÖIB) sought leave to be joined to the application for leave to intervene submitted by DBEB, the ÖEB and Mellifera.

15      The applications referred to above were served on the applicant and the Commission, in accordance with Article 116(1) of the Rules of Procedure.

16      By documents lodged at the Court Registry on 5 and 26 February, 26 March and 10 April 2014, the applicant indicated that it took the view that Makhteshim-Agan Italia, KWS Saat, the AGPM, the NFU, Rapool-Ring, the ESA and the AIC had established to the requisite legal standard that they have a direct interest in intervening in the present case. The applicant also requested confidential treatment in respect of certain information included in the application and the annexes thereto.

17      By documents lodged at the Court Registry on 5 and 26 February and 10 April 2014, the applicant indicated that it opposed the intervention of the UNAF, the joint intervention of the DBEB, Mellifera and the ÖEB, the intervention of Stichting Greenpeace Council, the joint intervention of PAN Europe, BeeLife, Buglife, ClientEarth and SumOfUs and the intervention of the OÖL and the ÖIB. It also requested confidential treatment in respect of certain information included in the application and the annexes thereto.

18      By documents lodged at the Court Registry on 4 and 26 February and 26 March 2014, the Commission indicated that it took the view that Stichting Greenpeace Council and BeeLife had demonstrated to the requisite legal standard that they had a direct interest in intervening in the present case. On the other hand, it raised objections to the intervention of Makhteshim-Agan Italia, KWS Saat, the UNAF, the AGPM and the NFU, to the joint intervention of the DBEB, Mellifera and the ÖEB, to the intervention of Rapool-Ring, the ESA, the AIC, PAN Europe, Buglife, ClientEarth and SumOfUs, and to the intervention of the OÖL and the ÖIB.

19      By way of measure of organisation of procedure, the Court put a written question to certain applicants for leave to intervene. By letters received at the Court Registry on 20 and 21 August 2014, Makhteshim-Agan Italia, KWS Saat, the UNAF, the DBEB, the ÖEB and the AIC submitted their observations within the period prescribed by the Court.

 Law

20      Under the second paragraph of Article 40 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, applicable to the procedure before the General Court pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 53 thereof, any person establishing an interest in the result of a case other than a dispute between Member States, between institutions of the Union or between Member States and institutions of the Union, may intervene in that case.

21      It is settled case-law that the concept of an interest in the result of the case, within the meaning of that provision, must be defined in the light of the precise subject‑matter of the dispute and be understood as meaning a direct, existing interest in the ruling on the forms of order sought and not as an interest in relation to the pleas in law put forward. The expression ‘result’ is to be understood as meaning the operative part of the final judgment which the parties ask the Court to deliver. It is necessary, in particular, to ascertain whether the intervener is directly affected by the contested measure and whether his interest in the result of the case is established (see order in Case T‑15/02 BASF v Commission [2003] ECR II‑213, paragraph 26 and the case-law cited).

 The applications for leave to intervene submitted by the UNAF, the AGPM, the NFU, the DBEB, Mellifera, the ÖEB, the ESA and the AIC

22      It is established case-law that intervention is permissible by representative associations whose object is to protect their members in cases raising questions of principle liable to affect those members (order of the President of the Court of Justice in Joined Cases C‑151/97 P(I) and C‑157/97 P(I) National Power and PowerGen [1997] ECR I‑3491, paragraph 66, and Case C‑151/98 P Pharos v Commission [1998] ECR I‑5541, paragraph 6; order of the President of the General Court in Case T‑201/04 R Microsoft v Commission [2004] ECR II‑2977, paragraph 37). In particular, an association may be granted leave to intervene in a case if it represents a significant number of undertakings active in the sector concerned, if its objects include the protection of the interests of its members, if the case may raise questions of principle affecting the functioning of the sector concerned and if the interests of its members may therefore be affected significantly by the forthcoming judgment (orders in Case T‑87/92 Kruidvat v Commission [1993] ECR II‑1375, paragraph 14, and Case T‑253/03 Akzo Nobel Chemicals and Akcros Chemicals v Commission [2004] ECR II‑1603, paragraph 21; and the judgment of 18 October 2012 in Case T‑245/11 ClientEarth and International Chemical Secretariat v ECHA, not published in the ECR, paragraph 12).

23      The Court of Justice has stated that the adoption of a broad interpretation of the right of associations to intervene is intended to facilitate assessment of the context of cases, whilst avoiding multiple individual interventions which would compromise the effectiveness and proper course of the procedure (orders in National Power and PowerGen, paragraph 66, and ClientEarth and International Chemical Secretariat v ECHA, paragraph 13).

24      It is in the light of the case-law cited above that it is necessary to examine the applications for leave to intervene submitted by the UNAF, the AGPM, the NFU, the DBEB, Mellifera, the ÖEB, the ESA and the AIC.

 The status of representative association and the objects of the UNAF, the AGPM, the NFU, the DBEB, Mellifera, the ÖEB, the ESA and the AIC

25      In the first place, it is necessary to determine whether the UNAF, the AGPM, the NFU, the DBEB, Mellifera, the ÖEB, the ESA and the AIC represent a significant number of undertakings active in the sector concerned and whether their objects include the protection of the interests of their members.

26      In the present case, those applicants for leave to intervene are associations of manufacturers of plant protection products, seed producers, farmers and beekeepers.

27      First, the UNAF submits, without being contradicted by the parties, that, as a trade union organisation for beekeepers, it represents, via its regional branches, 22 000 French beekeepers. According to Article 5(5) and (9) of its articles of association, its objectives include, in particular, the protection of the interests of all beekeepers and the representation of its members vis-à-vis public authorities.

28      Second, with regard to the AGPM, it is apparent from its articles of association that its objectives include the promotion of the maize sector and the representation and protection of the interests of French maize producers in dealings with the French and European authorities. On that basis, the AGPM claims that it represents 50% of maize producers and growers and almost 100% of producers of maize seed in France. The Commission does not contest those claims.

29      Third, the NFU states that its members are 55 000 farmers, the majority being in England and Wales. According to its articles of association, its objects include the protection of the occupational and legal interests of its members in the farming sector in the United Kingdom.

30      Fourth, the DBEB states, without being contradicted by the parties, that its members are made up of approximately 750 professional and commercial beekeepers in Germany. According to its articles of association, its object is to maintain and promote commercial beekeeping and to protect the economic interests of beekeepers, inter alia, by representing the interests of its members.

31      Fifth, the ÖEB states, without being contradicted by the parties, that it has approximately 260 members who are commercial beekeepers in Austria. According to its articles of association, its objects include the representation of commercial beekeepers vis-à-vis all competent authorities.

32      Sixth, with regard to the ESA, it is not disputed that, within the European Union, it is made up of 48 companies operating in the seed production and marketing and plant development sector, 38 national professional associations active in the same sector and 40 associated companies. Moreover, in addition to its plant development activities and its operation of a European quality seed treatment assurance scheme, the ESA’s objects also include, according to its articles of association, the protection of its members’ interests.

33      Seventh, the AIC states, without being contradicted by the parties, that it represents more than 250 undertakings operating in the United Kingdom in the agriculture and food chain sector, which account for the vast majority of that sector. It is apparent from its memorandum of association that the AIC’s objects include taking, contributing to and assisting in legal proceedings, if questions of principle affecting the rights or interests of the agriculture and food chain sector are involved.

34      As regards the Commission’s argument that the UNAF, the AGPM, the DBEB, the ÖEB and the AIC are associations confined to a single Member State and cannot be considered to represent a significant number of undertakings active in the sector concerned, it is sufficient to note that there is no requirement under the case-law cited in paragraph 22 above for the members of a representative association to be from more than one Member State.

35      With regard to the applicant’s argument that the number of members of the DBEB (approximately 750 members out of a total of 92 000 beekeepers in Germany) and of the ÖEB (approximately 260 members out of a total of 25 000 beekeepers in Austria) is too low for it to be possible to regard those associations as representative, it should be noted that their purpose is to represent only professional and commercial beekeepers, not all beekeepers, which leads to their articles of association imposing a membership requirement that members should operate a minimum number of bee colonies (30 for the DBEB and 40 for the ÖEB). Unlike beekeepers who are not engaged in beekeeping for profit-making purposes, commercial beekeepers may find their economic interests affected by the use of the substances referred to in the contested regulation, which are suspected of being harmful to bees. The fact that commercial beekeepers constitute a small minority of the total number of beekeepers cannot therefore justify any claim that an association specifically protecting their interests should not be regarded as sufficiently representative.

36      Similarly, the fact that the DBEB and the ÖEB are members of BeeLife does not justify the view that their interests would thereby be sufficiently represented in the present proceedings. Indeed, as the DBEB and the ÖEB rightly observe, BeeLife pursues primarily environmental objectives associated with pollinating insects. On the other hand, BeeLife’s articles of association do not contain any mandate for protecting or representing its members’ interests (see paragraph 86 below).

37      It is apparent from the foregoing that the UNAF, the AGPM, the NFU, the DBEB, the ÖEB, the ESA and the AIC fulfil the conditions for intervening as associations representing their members’ interests laid down in the case-law cited at paragraph 22 above.

38      Eighth, Mellifera describes itself as a German association of 800 beekeepers, farmers and gardeners whose object is the preservation of bees’ habitats and the quality of honey and honey-based products.

39      As noted by the applicant, it is apparent from Mellifera’s articles of association that the protection of its members’ interests in the beekeeping sector does not form part of its object. Accordingly, Mellifera does not fulfil the conditions for intervening as an association which represents its members’ interests laid down in the case-law cited in paragraph 22 above. Its application for leave to intervene must therefore be dismissed.

 Whether the interests of the members of the UNAF, the AGPM, the NFU, the DBEB, the ÖEB, the ESA and the AIC will be significantly affected

40      In the second place, it is necessary to determine whether the interests of the members of the UNAF, the AGPM, the NFU, the DBEB, the ÖEB, the ESA and the AIC may be significantly affected by the forthcoming judgment, within the meaning of the case-law cited at paragraph 22 above.

41      First, the UNAF submits that, by virtue of their properties, the active substances identified in the contested regulation present an acute risk of toxicity for bees, especially if they are used for treating the seeds of agriculturally important crops. Accordingly, the UNAF and the beekeepers which it represents have a clear interest in the maintenance of the contested regulation, which prohibits the marketing of seed treated with products containing the substances in question.

42      It cannot be objected in that regard that, as the use of the substances identified by the contested regulation is already highly regulated in France, the outcome of the present proceedings will have no effect on the situation of beekeepers in France. It is true that, even if the contested regulation were annulled in the present action, use of the substances at issue would remain subject to the national restrictions applicable. However, it is also true that, as long as it is in force, the contested regulation will prohibit any national authority from approving such use and therefore constitutes, from the standpoint of the UNAF’s members, an additional guarantee against their use in the future. In those circumstances, the outcome of the present dispute may have a significant impact on those members’ interests.

43      Second, with regard to the AGPM, it states, without being contradicted by the Commission, that the plant protection substances referred to in the contested regulation and the seeds previously treated with those substances were used by the vast majority of the association’s members to protect their maize production against harmful organisms. In its view, the prohibition of those substances could result in considerable production losses for its members. Furthermore, it maintains that some of its members claim that they will suffer material loss because it will be impossible for them to dispose of stocks of seed that has already been treated.

44      The Commission contends, first, that the contested regulation does not have the effect of preventing the AGPM’s members from pursuing their main activities, namely the production and marketing of maize and maize seed. It also observes that the competitors of the AGPM’s members have to contend with the same restrictions arising as a result of the adoption of the contested regulation, in so far as it is no longer possible for them to treat seed with the substances at issue. Lastly, the Commission submits that the fact that it was not possible to dispose of stocks of treated seeds is due to adverse weather conditions and cannot be attributed to the adoption of the contested regulation.

45      However, it should be observed, first, that while the contested regulation does not have the effect of preventing the AGPM’s members from pursuing their activities of producing and marketing maize and maize seed, it necessarily has a direct effect on their interests, in so far as the prohibition on treating seeds to protect them against harmful organisms with the aid of the substances at issue is liable to result in additional costs or production losses for those members. Next, the notion that the interests of the association’s members must be affected by the result of the case embodied in the case-law cited at paragraph 22 above must be evaluated in the light of the situation which preceded the adoption of the measure in question, not by comparison with the situation of the competitors of the association’s members, to whom it is also open to apply for leave to intervene in the proceedings before the General Court. Lastly, while the fact that it was not possible, in the period leading up to the adoption of the contested regulation, for the AGPM’s members to dispose of the stocks of seed that had already been treated may be due to adverse weather conditions, it is clear that, if that measure had not been adopted, it would have been possible to market those stocks at a later stage.

46      It follows that the interests of the AGPM’s members are significantly affected by the result of the present case.

47      Third, with regard to the NFU, it is not disputed that some of its members buy and use plant protection products which contain the substances identified by the contested regulation or seed treated with those products. As a result of the adoption of the regulation, those members are therefore no longer able to use those substances or the banned seed to protect their production and their income is liable to fall as a result of damage caused by harmful organisms. The outcome of the present dispute may therefore affect, directly and significantly, their interests as farmers, even taking into account the fact, pointed out by the Commission, that they are in the same position as their competitors in that regard. Similarly, the fact that the members of the NFU belong to a single Member State is not such as to alter that direct and significant effect.

48      Fourth, the DBEB and the ÖEB are correct to state that the outcome of the present dispute will be decisive as to the question whether use of the substances covered by the contested regulation will remain subject to the restrictions laid down in the regulation. As it is suspected that those substances are harmful to bees, the DBEB and the ÖEB have an interest in the outcome of the dispute.

49      Fifth, with regard to the ESA, it is apparent from its application for leave to intervene that, as a direct consequence of the adoption of the contested regulation, its members no longer have the possibility of using the products concerned by the contested regulation to treat seed and subsequently market it. According to the ESA, that has had an economic, social and environmental impact on the entire sector which it represents, as well as causing immediate material damage for some of its members, who have been unable to dispose of reserves of seed that has already been treated. The ESA also contends that the present dispute raises questions of principle which affect the sector, relating, inter alia, to the scope of the Commission’s powers in regulating plant protection products.

50      In the light of those explanations, the members of the ESA must be regarded as having a direct, existing interest in the applicant’s application for the annulment of the contested regulation being granted.

51      That conclusion is not called into question by the Commission’s arguments.

52      The Commission argues, in essence, that the contested regulation does not have the effect of preventing the ESA’s members from continuing their activities entailing the research, development, production and marketing of seed, but simply that of prohibiting them from treating such seed with certain products and it is, therefore, uncertain whether the outcome of these proceedings will affect their interests directly.

53      However, it is clear that the interests of the ESA’s members will necessarily be affected by the outcome of the present proceedings, since their activities consist precisely in the marketing of seed treated with the plant protection products referred to in the contested regulation. The fact that those activities are prohibited affects their interests significantly.

54      Sixth, the AIC is correct to state that a ban on the marketing of the substances covered by the contested regulation may have a negative impact on the economic situation of its members. That applies to those of its members who are active in the seed sector, as explained in paragraph 53 above with regard to the members of the ESA. It also applies to the members of the AIC who are active in other sectors, such as those in the fodder products sector and the sector dealing in trade in arable crops. The prohibition of the use of plant protection products containing the substances referred to in the contested regulation may lead to a reduction in productivity and profitability in those sectors.

55      It follows from all the foregoing that the applications for leave to intervene submitted by the AGPM, the NFU, the ESA and the AIC in support of the form of order sought by the applicant and the application submitted by the UNAF as well as the joint application for leave to intervene submitted by the DBEB and the ÖEB in support of the form of order sought by the Commission must be allowed. The application for leave to intervene submitted by Mellifera must be rejected.

 The application for leave to intervene submitted by the OÖL and the ÖIB

56      In support of their joint application for leave to intervene, the OÖL and the ÖIB submit that they have an interest in the result of the case in their capacity as associations representing beekeepers in Austria. On that basis, they seek to be joined to the application for leave to intervene submitted by the DBEB, Mellifera and the ÖEB.

57      First of all, it is clear that, as the notice in the Official Journal of the European Union referred to in Article 24(6) of the Rules of Procedure was published on 9 November 2013, the application for leave to intervene submitted by the OÖL and the ÖIB, which was received at the Court Registry on 27 February 2014, was lodged after the expiry of the six-week period laid down in Article 115(1) of the Rules of Procedure. As a consequence, even if their application were admitted, their rights as interveners could only be those set out in Article 116(6) of those rules. It cannot be accepted that, by attaching themselves, after the expiry of that period, to an application submitted before its expiry, the OÖL and the ÖIB should be able to circumvent the fact that their application is time-barred and, by such means, enjoy the rights which Article 116(2) and (4) of the Rules of Procedure reserves to interveners who have submitted their applications for leave to intervene within the period prescribed.

58      As a consequence, the applications submitted by the OÖL and the ÖIB must be rejected, insofar as they seek to be joined to the application submitted by the DBEB, Mellifera and the ÖEB.

59      Nevertheless, it is necessary to examine their application as an independent application for leave to intervene. In particular, it is necessary to determine, first, whether the OÖL and the ÖIB represent a significant number of members active in the sector concerned and whether their objects include the protection of their members’ interests and, second, whether the interests of those members may be significantly affected by the forthcoming judgment.

60      In that respect, it should be noted that, while the application for leave to intervene submitted by the OÖL and the ÖIB contains information on the basis of which it is possible to evaluate their capacity to represent the interests of a sufficiently large number of members in the beekeeping sector in Austria, it confines itself, as to the remainder, to referring to the content of the application for leave to intervene submitted by the DDEB, Mellifera and the ÖEB.

61      Article 115(2)(f) of the Rules of Procedure provides that all applications for leave to intervene must contain a statement of the circumstances establishing the right to intervene, where the application is submitted pursuant to the second or third paragraph of Article 40 of the Statute of the Court of Justice, applicable to the procedure before the General Court in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 53 of the Statute.

62      In particular, such a statement should be sufficiently clear and precise to enable the parties to prepare their observations and the Court to adjudicate on the application for leave to intervene, where necessary without any further supporting information. In order to guarantee legal certainty and the sound administration of justice, it is necessary, in order for an application to be admissible, that the essential matters of law and fact relied on are stated, at least in summary form, coherently and intelligibly in the application itself. Whilst the body of the application may be supported and supplemented on specific points by references to extracts from documents annexed thereto, a general reference to other documents, even those annexed to the application, cannot make up for the absence of the essential arguments in law which must appear in the application (see, by analogy, the order in Case T‑85/92 De Hoe v Commission [1993] ECR II‑523, paragraph 20 and the case-law cited).

63      In the present case, the application for leave to intervene submitted by the OÖL and the ÖIB does not contain information on the basis of which it is possible to determine whether their members may be significantly affected by the forthcoming judgment. It is not possible to make up for that lack of information by a mere reference to the arguments in the applications for leave to intervene submitted by the DBEB, Mellifera and the ÖEB relating to the manner in which their respective members may be affected by the result of the present case.

64      The application for leave to intervene submitted by the OÖL and the ÖIB must, therefore, be rejected as inadmissible.

 The applications for leave to intervene submitted by Makhteshim-Agan Italia and KWS Saat

65      It is apparent from the documents before the Court that the company Makhteshim‑Agan Italia is a member of the Association européenne pour la protection des cultures (ECPA) and that the company KWS Saat is a member of the ESA.

66      In the present case, the ESA is granted leave to intervene in its capacity as association representing the interests of its members (see paragraph 55 above). Similarly, the ECPA is granted leave to intervene by separate order of the Court today. In such a situation, if additional applications for leave to intervene having the same objective on the part of their members are granted, that presupposes that those members have demonstrated that they have an interest in the outcome of the dispute that is different from the interests of the associations granted leave to intervene of which they are members (see, by analogy, the order of the President of the Court of Justice of 5 February 2009 in Akzo Nobel Chemicals and Akcros Chemicals v Commission, C‑550/07 P, not published in the ECR, paragraphs 12 to 14).

67      In its observations of 21 August 2014 in response to the written question put by the Court, Makhteshim‑Agan Italia contends, in essence, that its interest in intervening derives from its particular situation. It held a marketing authorisation for a product in liquid form based on one of the substances referred to in the contested regulation, which was issued by the Italian authorities and subsequently withdrawn as a result of the adoption of the regulation. In its view, that will not have been the case for all ECPA members, in particular with regard to the liquid as opposed to the solid form of its product. Accordingly, its interest could not be adequately taken into account by the intervention of the ESA.

68      In its observations of 21 August 2014 in response to the written question put by the Court, KWS Saat contends, in essence, that its interest in intervening derives from its particular situation. It used the specific substances referred to in the contested regulation, sourcing its supplies from the applicant. In its view, as long as the contested regulation remains in force, it will be unable to dispose of its stock of seed that has already been treated with the substances in question, it will be unable to maintain its supply agreement with the applicant, it will suffer losses in its seed production activities, and its investment in the production of seed treated with the substances at issue will be diminished. Those circumstances distinguish its situation from that of other ESA members. Accordingly, its interest could not be adequately taken into account by the intervention of the ESA.

69      In that regard, it should be recalled that, in accordance with the case-law cited at paragraph 23 above, the objective pursued by the adoption of a broad interpretation of the right of associations to intervene is to avoid multiple individual interventions which would compromise the effectiveness and proper course of the procedure.

70      While it is possible that the particular situations referred to by Makhteshim‑Agan Italia and KWS Saat are not shared by all the members of the ECPA and the ESA, respectively, the interests they claim do not, in any event, go beyond those generally protected by the ECPA and the ESA as associations representing the interests of producers of plant protection products and seed producers.

71      Therefore, the Court considers that the interests of Makhteshim-Agan Italia and KWS Saat in the result of the present case are already represented by the associations which have been granted leave to intervene of which they are members.

72      In the light of the foregoing and having regard to the objective pursued by the case-law cited at paragraph 23 above, the applications for leave to intervene submitted by Makhteshim-Agan Italia and KWS Saat must therefore be rejected.

 The applications for leave to intervene submitted by Stichting Greenpeace Council, PAN Europe, BeeLife, Buglife, ClientEarth and SumOfUs

73      According to case-law, insofar as concerns applications for leave to intervene submitted by organisations for the protection of the environment, the requirement for a direct and present interest in the result of the case means either that the scope of the activities of such organisations should coincide with that of the region and sector concerned by the proceedings before the General Court or, where the scope of their activities is wider, that they should be actively involved in protection programmes or studies relating to the region and sector concerned, the viability of which may be jeopardised if the contested measure were adopted (orders of the President of the General Court in Case T‑37/04 R Região autónoma dos Açores v Council [2004] ECR II‑2153, paragraphs 69 and 70, and of 6 November 2012 in Case T‑57/11 Castelnou Energía v Commission, not published in the ECR, paragraph 10).

74      It is in the light of that case-law that the applications for leave to intervene submitted by Stichting Greenpeace Council, PAN Europe, BeeLife, Buglife, ClientEarth and SumOfUs must be examined.

75      First, it is apparent from the application for leave to intervene submitted by Stichting Greenpeace Council that it is an organisation for the protection of the environment which operates at global level and has as its objective the protection of the environment.

76      It should be noted that, from both a geographic point of view and in terms of its subject-matter, the scope of Stichting Greenpeace Council’s activities extend beyond the region and the sector concerned by the proceedings before the General Court, namely the beekeeping sector in the European Union.

77      However, Stichting Greenpeace Council relies on the publication of a number of reports intended to demonstrate the harmful impact on bees of pesticides, including the neonicotinoids referred to in the contested regulation. In those reports, prepared in response to studies carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) prior to the adoption of the contested regulation, the organisation concluded that it was necessary to ban the use of neonicotinoids. Accordingly, Stichting Greenpeace Council may claim that it has an interest in the contested regulation being maintained, since the annulment of the regulation would have a direct effect on the achievements of its reports and its campaign for the protection of bees by reopening the path to the use of the harmful substances identified in the contested regulation and, ultimately, by jeopardising, in its view, the protection of the environment within the European Union.

78      Accordingly, Stichting Greenpeace Council has provided evidence to show that it is actively involved in protection programmes or studies relating to the region and sector concerned, the achievements of which could be jeopardised by the result of the case within the meaning of the case-law cited at paragraph 73 above.

79      While the applicant maintains in that regard that the adoption of the contested regulation has not jeopardised the viability of the studies carried out by Stichting Greenpeace Council because, by banning the use and marketing of certain neonicotinoids, it strengthens the achievements of those studies, it is sufficient to observe that, in the present case, the achievements of the reports and studies published by Stichting Greenpeace Council which are intended to show the harmful effects of neonicotinoids on bees would necessarily be jeopardised if the contested regulation were annulled. Accordingly, Stichting Greenpeace Council has a direct, existing interest in the result of the case.

80      Stichting Greenpeace Council must, therefore, be granted leave to intervene in the present proceedings in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

81      Second, as regards PAN Europe, it is apparent from its application for leave to intervene that it is an organisation for the protection of the environment operating on a pan-European scale which is active in 24 countries, 21 of which form part of the European Union. According to its articles of association, its objectives include the promotion of activities intended to reduce or indeed eliminate the use of pesticides. To that end, PAN Europe is actively involved in research, promoting awareness and lobbying in connection with the risks associated with the use of pesticides.

82      It should be noted, as the applicant was correct to observe, that from both a geographic point of view and in terms of subject-matter, the scope of Pan Europe’s activities extends beyond the region and sector concerned by the proceedings before the General Court, namely the beekeeping sector in the European Union.

83      However, it is apparent from the documents before the Court that, in a campaign to ban the use of neonicotinoids pursued for several years, PAN Europe made available to the public, inter alia, scientific studies on the use of neonicotinoids, the risks associated with such use and its effects on bee populations. Against that background, it also requested the Commission to carry out an internal review of the contested regulation, with a view to securing a total ban on the use of the neonicotinoids in question. There are currently proceedings before the General Court for annulment of the Commission’s decision refusing that request on the ground that it was inadmissible (Case T‑671/13 PAN Europe and Confédération paysanne v Commission).

84      In that regard, it should be observed that, contrary to what PAN Europe claims, the result of the present case will not necessarily have any effect on the outcome of its action for annulment of the Commission’s decision rejecting its request as inadmissible. However, the existence of those proceedings and the campaign conducted by PAN Europe referred to above suggest that it has provided evidence to show that it is actively involved in protection programmes and studies relating to the region and the sector concerned, the achievements of which may be jeopardised by the outcome of the dispute within the meaning of the case-law cited at paragraph 73 above.

85      PAN Europe must therefore be granted leave to intervene in these proceedings in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

86      Third, it is apparent from the documents before the Court that BeeLife is an organisation for the protection of the environment. Thus, according to its articles of association, its purpose is, inter alia, to identify and resolve the environmental problems of pollinating insects, in particular honey bees, and to endeavour to achieve improved protection of the environment, in particular farming that is compatible with the well-being of pollinators and biodiversity, by means, inter alia, of legal action. Contrary to what is claimed by the applicant and the Commission, the fact that the members of BeeLife are exclusively associations of beekeepers does not mean that it cannot be categorised as an environmental organisation, especially since its objects do not include the representation of its members’ interests.

87      Moreover, the scope of BeeLife’s activities coincides with the area and the sector concerned by the proceedings before the Court, namely the beekeeping sector in the European Union.

88      BeeLife must therefore be granted leave to intervene in the present proceedings in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

89      Fourth, it is apparent from its application for leave to intervene that Buglife is an organisation for the protection of the environment whose object is the protection and preservation of invertebrates in the United Kingdom. To that end, its main activities include the launching of campaigns to promote awareness and contributing to legislative and regulatory processes for the preservation of invertebrates.

90      It is clear that the scope of Buglife’s activities does not coincide with the region and sector concerned by the proceedings before the General Court.

91      On the other hand, Buglife may rely on the publication of a report in which it examines the effects of certain neonicotinoids on bees and other invertebrates in the United Kingdom and the European Union by referring to a study carried out by the applicant in this field. On the basis of that report, Buglife set up a campaign to lobby the United Kingdom Government prior to the adoption of the contested regulation with a view to securing a general ban on the use of neonicotinoids in the European Union.

92      Accordingly, Buglife must be regarded, in its capacity as an organisation for the protection of the environment, as clearly having an interest in the outcome of the present proceedings, since the annulment of the contested regulation could call into question the achievements of the campaigns, programmes and studies in which it is actively involved and which relate to a region — namely the territory of the United Kingdom and the European Union — and a sector — namely, the beekeeping sector — concerned by the proceedings before the General Court.

93      Buglife must, therefore, be granted leave to intervene in the present proceedings, together with PAN Europe and BeeLife, in support of the form of order sought by the Commission.

94      Lastly, with regard to ClientEarth and SumOfUs, it should be noted, as the applicant observed, that the scope of their activities does not coincide with the region and sector concerned by the proceedings before the General Court.

95      ClientEarth describes itself as an organisation for the protection of the environment active in three Member States. According to its articles of association, its activities entail, in particular, the provision of legal support for projects and initiatives connected with the protection of the environment. ClientEarth is actively involved, inter alia, in monitoring national environmental policy and lobbying for a general ban on neonicotinoids in the European Union and provides legal assistance to entities engaged in setting up campaigns to promote awareness of the need for bee protection at European level.

96      SumOfUs is a movement of consumers and individuals seeking to promote the latters’ interest and counterbalance action taken by large corporations. Established in the United States, the movement now operates on a global scale and pursues the objectives of informing and educating the public and promoting awareness of the effects of the activities of corporations on human rights, fundamental freedoms and the environment. In response to concerns expressed by its members, SumOfUs launched, inter alia, a campaign for the protection of bees and sent a petition to the applicant requesting it to cease the marketing of neonicotinoids. Another petition, signed by 140 000 members living in the European Union, sought to persuade the applicant to withdraw its application in the present proceedings.

97      The Court finds that the scope of the interests of ClientEarth and SumOfUs is too wide and too general for those interests to be substantially affected by the outcome of the present proceedings.

98      With regard to ClientEarth, its activities essentially consist in the provision of legal support for programmes or action for the protection of the environment, which include, in the present case, the action undertaken by BugLife. SumOfUs is an organisation which serves as a platform for petitions, awareness campaigns and lobbying in the field of human rights and the environment, which are supported by its members and supporters throughout the world. Among the causes supported by petitions launched by SumOfUs is the ban on neonicotinoids, on account of their effect on bees. Neither the legal support activities provided by ClientEarth nor the petitions, campaigns or environmental lobbying activities undertaken by SumOfUs are liable to be significantly affected by the outcome of the present dispute.

99      It follows that ClientEarth and SumOfUs have failed to show that they have a direct, present interest in the result of the case within the meaning of Article 40 of the Statute of the Court of Justice. Their applications for leave to intervene in support of the form of order sought by the Commission must, therefore, be rejected.

 The application for leave to intervene submitted by Rapool-Ring

100    In support of its application for leave to intervene, Rapool-Ring states that it is a company engaged in the marketing of rapeseed treated with the substances referred to in the contested regulation. As a direct consequence of the adoption of the regulation, it is no longer able to use those substances or to market seed treated with the substances. Moreover, the rapeseed market is likely to shrink overall as a result of the contested regulation as farmers may abandon the cultivation of rapeseed, which will be less viable if the seed is not treated, and switch to the cultivation of other crops.

101    In the light of those explanations, the Court finds that Rapool-Ring has established that it has a direct, present interest in the outcome of the dispute, which cannot be called into question by the Commission’ objections.

102    First, the Commission contends that Rapool-Ring’s claims concerning the likely shrinking of the rapeseed market are contradicted by information available on its website, which suggests that that market is likely to grow as a result of developments in genetics. It should be observed, in that regard, that the ban alone on marketing a product with high added value offering a high yield to agricultural clients, as is the case with rapeseed treated with the substances subject to the contested regulation, will in itself have a significant effect on Rapool-Ring’s interests, irrespective of the possibility that, as a result of future technical progress which is likely but, by its very nature, uncertain and requires in any event investment in research and development, that company may not suffer an actual drop in its turnover.

103    Second, the Commission maintains that two of Rapool-Ring’s three parent companies are members of the ESA and that all three of those companies are members of the Bundesverband deutscher Pflanzenzüchter, which is also a member of the ESA. As a consequence, the Commission is of the view that Rapool-Ring’s interests are adequately represented by the intervention of the ESA.

104    It is sufficient to note in that regard that Rapool-Ring is not itself a member of the ESA or of Bundesverband deutscher Pflanzenzüchter. The simple fact that the interests of its parent companies in the present dispute are represented by the intervention of the ESA is not sufficient for it to be concluded that Rapool-Ring’s own interests are also represented. In particular, it cannot be presumed, without further investigation, that Rapool-Ring’s interests are the same as those of its parent companies.

105    The application for leave to intervene submitted by Rapool-Ring must, therefore, be granted.

 The rights of the interveners

106    The notice in the Official Journal of the European Union referred to in Article 24(6) of the Rules of Procedure having been published on 9 November 2013, the applications for leave to intervene which have been allowed were submitted within the period prescribed in Article 115(1) of those rules, and the rights of the interveners are those laid down in Article 116(2) to (4) of those rules.

 The request for confidential treatment

107    The applicant has requested, pursuant to Article 116(2) of the Rules of Procedure, that certain confidential information in the file should not be disclosed to the intervening parties and has produced a non-confidential version of the pleadings and documents in question for that purpose.

108    At this stage, the documents to be provided to the intervening parties must therefore be restricted to non-confidential versions of the documents served or, as the case may be, to be served on the parties. A decision on the merits of the request for confidential treatment will, if necessary, be taken at a later stage in the light of any objections or observations which may be submitted on that issue.

109    Moreover, since the applications for leave to intervene submitted by Makhteshim‑Agan Italia, KWS Saat, Mellifera, ClientEarth, SumOfUs, the OÖL and the ÖIB have been rejected, there is no need to adjudicate on the applicant’s request for confidential treatment with regard to the latter.

 Costs

110    Under Article 87(1) of the Rules of Procedure, a decision as to costs is to be given in the final judgment or in the order closing the proceedings. As the present order closes the proceedings in so far as concerns Makhteshim-Agan Italia, KWS Saat, Mellifera, ClientEarth, SumOfUs, the OÖL and the ÖIB, it is necessary to make an order as to the costs relating to their applications for leave to intervene.

111    Under 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. The applicant has not made any submission as to costs, whereas the Commission has requested that the costs of all the intervening parties should be borne either by those parties themselves or by the applicant.

112    The General Court orders Makhteshim-Agan Italia, KWS Saat, Mellifera, ClientEarth, SumOfUs, the OÖL and the ÖIB, which have been unsuccessful in their applications, to bear their own costs, and the main parties to bear their own costs relating to those applications.

On those grounds,

THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber)

hereby orders:

1.      The Association générale des producteurs de maïs et autres céréales cultivées de la sous-famille des panicoïdées (AGPM), the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Rapool-Ring GmbH, the European Seed Association (ESA) and the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) are granted leave to intervene in Case T‑429/13 in support of the form of order sought by Bayer CropScience AG.

2.      The Union nationale de l’apiculture française (UNAF), the Deutscher Berufs- und Erwerbsimkerbund eV (DBEB), the Österreichischer Erwerbsimkerbund (ÖEB), Stichting Greenpeace Council, Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe), BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination (BeeLife) and Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust (Buglife) are granted leave to intervene in Case T‑429/13 in support of the form of order sought by the European Commission.

3.      The applications for leave to intervene submitted by Makhteshim-Agan Italia Srl, KWS Saat AG, Mellifera eV — Vereinigung für wesensgerechte Bienenhaltung, ClientEarth, SumOfUs, the OÖ Landesverband für Bienenzucht (OÖL) and the Österreichischer Imkerbund (ÖIB) are dismissed.

4.      The Registrar will furnish the intervening parties with a non-confidential version of each of the procedural documents served on the parties.

5.      A date shall be fixed by which the intervening parties may lodge their observations on the application for confidential treatment. A decision on the merits of that application is reserved.

6.      A date shall be fixed by which the intervening parties may lodge a statement in intervention, without prejudice to their right to lodge a supplementary statement following a decision on the merits of the application for confidential treatment.

7.      Makhteshim-Agan Italia, KWS Saat, Mellifera, ClientEarth, SumOfUs, the OÖL, the ÖIB, Bayer CropScience and the Commission shall each bear their own costs relating to the unsuccessful applications for leave to intervene.

8.      With regard to the successful applications for leave to intervene, the costs are reserved.

Luxembourg, 21 October 2014.

E. Coulon

 

      H. Kanninen

Registrar

 

      President


* Language of the case: English.


1 This order is published in extract form.