ORDER OF THE EUROPEAN UNION CIVIL SERVICE TRIBUNAL

(Second Chamber)

9 April 2014

Case F‑87/13

Philippe Colart and Others

v

European Parliament

(Civil service — Staff representation — Framework agreement between the Parliament and the professional or trade union organisations of the institution — Executive Committee of a trade union — Dispute within the trade union as to the lawfulness and identity of the persons forming the Executive Committee — Rights of access to the email account put at the disposal of the trade union by the institution — Refusal of the institution to re-establish rights and/or to remove all rights of access to the email account — Legal interest in bringing proceedings — Manifest inadmissibility)

Application:      under Article 270 TFEU, applicable to the EAEC Treaty pursuant to Article 106a thereof, in which Mr Colart, Mr Bras, Mr Corthout, Mr Decoutere, Mr Dony, Mr Garzone, Ms Kemmerling-Linssen, Mr Manzella and Mr Vienne (‘the applicants’) seek annulment of a decision taken by the Secretary-General of the European Parliament in June 2013 concerning the new distribution of rights of access to the mailbox of the ‘Solidarité pour les agents et fonctionnaires européens’ trade union (‘SAFE’), as well as compensation for the harm of any kind which that decision caused them.

Held:      The action is dismissed as manifestly inadmissible. Mr Colart, Mr Bras, Mr Corthout, Mr Decoutere, Mr Dony, Mr Garzone, Ms Kemmerling-Linssen, Mr Manzella and Mr Vienne are to bear their own costs and are ordered to pay the costs incurred by the European Parliament.

Summary

Actions brought by officials — Interest in bringing proceedings — Action brought by a member of a professional or trade union organisation against a measure affecting the collective interest protected by that organisation — Interest in bringing proceedings only where members of the organisation are denied the normal exercise of their trade union rights

(Staff Regulations, Arts 24b, 90 and 91)

For an action for annulment brought on the basis of Article 91 of the Staff Regulations to be admissible, it must relate to a dispute between the European Union and one of the persons referred to by the Staff Regulations regarding the legality of an act adversely affecting that person. In that respect, only measures producing binding legal effects such as to directly and immediately affect the applicant’s interests by bringing about a distinct change in his legal position as an official or other staff member are open to review. As far as freedom of association is concerned, which is protected by the provisions of Article 24b of the Staff Regulations, any measure directly and immediately affecting an official or other staff member in the individual exercise of his trade union rights, deriving from Article 24b of the Staff Regulations or provided for in an agreement between the institution and the professional or trade union organisation, in the context of his individual employment relationship with the institution, constitutes an act adversely affecting him against which he has an interest in bringing proceedings. On the other hand, a measure which directly affects only the collective interest protected by that organisation in its relations with the institution concerned does not constitute an act which may be challenged by an official or other staff member acting in an individual capacity.

In that regard, Article 14 of the framework agreement between the European Parliament and the professional and trade union organisations gives those organisations the possibility of using, in so far as the departments concerned have sufficient capacity, the distribution and audiovisual communication facilities of the Parliament’s Secretariat-General, including a mailbox, for activities relating to the application of the framework agreement and for informing staff about those activities. It does not in itself confer on officials or other staff members in those organisations, even where they sit on the executive bodies elected by a meeting of their members as provided for in Article 2(b) of the framework agreement, an individual entitlement to have rights of access to the resources placed at the disposal of those organisations. Consequently, the decision to refuse to block temporarily rights of access to the email account made available to an organisation directly and immediately affects the rights which it derives from Article 14 to be able to use that mailbox. It was thus open to the organisation to bring, through its officially authorised representatives, an action for annulment of the contested decision under Article 263 TFEU, within the time-limit of two months laid down in that provision.

Furthermore, as well as the fact that any action brought by that organisation falls under the jurisdiction of the General Court of the European Union, allowing the admissibility of the present action would also mean that the Civil Service Tribunal would have to assess the legality of the various decisions adopted in the general meetings and extraordinary general meetings of that organisation in order to ascertain whether the applicants are to be recognised as the only persons authorised to exercise the rights of access to the mailbox on its behalf. Such an assessment would, first, be tantamount to arbitrating on disputes within the organisation, even though that issue, which concerns compliance by its members with the rules of the organisation’s statutes, comes under the jurisdiction of the national courts, and second, would lead the Tribunal to rule not on a dispute between an official or other staff member and his administration, but on a dispute within an organisation between its members.

If the applicants may have been affected by the contested decision, first of all, it is in their capacity not as officials, which allows them to rely on the rights laid down in Article 24b of the Staff Regulations, particularly the right to be members of an organisation, but in the capacity they claim as members of the organisation’s Executive Committee. Secondly, they were thus not affected as officials in the context of their individual employment relationships with the Parliament. Only the organisation was affected in the context of its communication, which the applicants support, with its members and the staff of the Parliament respectively.

(see paras 38-41, 50, 53-59)

See:

8 October 1974, 175/73 Union syndicale and Others v Council, paras 15 and 17; 11 May 1989, 193/87 and 194/87 Maurissen and Union syndicale v Court of Auditors; 10 January 2006, C‑373/04 P Commission v Alvarez Moreno, para. 42

31 March 2003, T‑227/02 Hecq v Commission, paras 15 to 17; 6 May 2004, T‑34/03 Hecq v Commission, para. 58; 13 December 2012, T‑199/11 P Strack v Commission, para. 127 and the case-law cited therein

6 May 2009, F‑137/07 Sergio and Others v Commission, paras 51, 52, 82, 83 and 116; 26 February 2013, F‑124/10 Labiri v EESC, para. 56 and the case-law cited therein