Edie Case Law Summary November 2008

Once again Edie News and Semple Fraser team up to bring readers the latest on legal cases which impact on environmental industries in the UK and Europe.

EUROPE
Conservation

A group of Landowners and association of farmers and forestry workers have lodged an appeal against an Order of the Court of First Instance which dismissed their application to annul a European Commission Decision (Decision 2005/101/EC) adopting a list of sites in the Boreal biogeographical region of Finland as sites of Community importance, under the Habitats Directive.

The Court of First Instance held that the Commission Decision affected neither the rights or obligations of the applicants since it did not impose any obligations on private individuals or economic operators, and that it contained no provision as regards the system of protection of sites of Community importance.

The Court found that the obligations arising out of Articles 4 and 6 of the Habitats Directive were not directly applicable to private individuals or economic operators since they afforded the Member State an element of discretion, with respect to implementation.

Therefore, the Court of First Instance considered that the contested Commission Decision was not of direct concern to the applicants within the meaning of Article 230 EC.

In appealing the decision, the group is asking the ECJ to set aside the judgment of the Court of First Instance, to declare their application as admissible and to give judgment in the case granting the order sought and thus allowing their application in full.

The appellants submit that they have a right of appeal or other effective legal remedy against the Commission’s Decision. They believe that the Court of First Instance erred in its decision to dismiss their application and that the decision should be set aside.

The appellants claim that the Court misinterpreted Article 6 of the Habitats Directive by considering that the Commission's Decision had no direct legal effects on them. They consider that the decision directly affects their legal position because it definitively determines a site's conservation area status, prohibits landowners from allowing their property to deteriorate, and, lays down a requirement that plans or projects be assessed.

In considering the arguments put forward, by the appellants and by the European Commission, the Advocate General, in his opinion, proposes that the Court:

• annuls the order of the Court of First Instance in the case of Sahlstedt and Others v Commission (Case T 150/05);
• rejects the objections of inadmissibility raised by the European Commission before the Court of First Instance; and
• refers the case back to the Court of First Instance so that it may rule on the legitimacy of the action.

The Opinion of the Advocate General is available in a number of European languages from the following link:-
http://curia.europa.eu/jurisp/cgi-bin/form.pl?lang=en&Submit=Submit&docrequire=alldocs&numaff=C-362/06

The Judgment of the Court of First Instance in Case T-150/05 is available below:-
http://curia.europa.eu/jurisp/cgi-bin/form.pl?lang=en&Submit=Submit&docrequire=alldocs&numaff=T-150/05

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