CJEU - C 150/10 / Judgment Bureau d'intervention et de restitution belge v Beneo-Orafti SA

Key facts of the case:
  1. This reference for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Articles 2(6) and 3 of Council Regulation (EC) No 320/2006 of 20 February 2006 establishing a temporary scheme for the restructuring of the sugar industry in the Community and amending Regulation (EC) No 1290/2005 on the financing of the common agricultural policy (OJ 2006 L 58, p. 42), Article 9 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 493/2006 of 27 March 2006 laying down transitional measures within the framework of the reform of the common organisation of the markets in the sugar sector, and amending Regulations (EC) No 1265/2001 and (EC) No 314/2002 (OJ 2006 L 89, p. 11), Article 4 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 967/2006 of 29 June 2006 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 318/2006 as regards sugar production in excess of the quota (OJ 2006 L 176, p. 22), Articles 26 and 27 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 968/2006 of 27 June 2006 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 320/2006 (OJ 2006 L 176, p. 32), the principle ne bis in idem and the principles of proportionality and non-discrimination.
  2. This reference has been made in two sets of proceedings between the Bureau d’intervention et de restitution belge (‘BIRB’) and Beneo-Orafti SA (‘Beneo‑Orafti’) concerning, first, the repayment of a restructuring aid and, second, the payment of a levy on sugar production in excess of the quota.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
  1. Article 3(1)(b) of Council Regulation (EC) No 320/2006 of 20 February 2006 establishing a temporary scheme for the restructuring of the sugar industry in the Community and amending Regulation (EC) No 1290/2005 on the financing of the common agricultural policy must be interpreted as meaning that the term ‘quota’ in that provision also includes the transitional quotas within the meaning of Article 9 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 493/2006 of 27 March 2006 laying down transitional measures within the framework of the reform of the common organisation of the markets in the sugar sector, and amending Regulations (EC) No 1265/2001 and (EC) No 314/2002.
  2. Article 3(1)(b) of Regulation No 320/2006 must be interpreted as meaning that, in circumstances such as those at issue in the main proceedings, the commitment to renounce the quota for the production of sugar, isoglucose and inulin syrup that has been allocated to an undertaking and assigned by it to one or more of its factories, referred to in that provision, takes effect on the date when, having regard to the information that is communicated to it or that is published in the Official Journal of the European Union, the undertaking that makes that commitment is in a position to know, as a reasonably diligent undertaking, that, in the view of the competent authorities, the conditions for obtaining the restructuring aid set out in Article 5(2) of that regulation have been fulfilled.
  3. Articles 26(1) and 27 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 968/2006 of 27 June 2006 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation No 320/2006 and Article 15 of Council Regulation (EC) No 318/2006 of 20 February 2006 on the common organisation of the markets in the sugar sector must be interpreted as meaning that a production such as that at issue in the main proceedings, on the assumption that it is contrary to the commitment to renounce the quota for the production of sugar, isoglucose and inulin syrup that has been allocated to an undertaking and assigned by it to one or more of its factories, referred to in Article 3(1)(b) of Regulation No 320/2006, may give rise to recovery of the aid, the imposition of a penalty and the collection of the levy on surpluses, as respectively set out in those provisions. With regard to the penalty under Article 27(3) of Regulation No 968/2006, it is for the referring court to assess whether, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the non-compliance can be regarded as having been committed intentionally or as a result of grave negligence. The principles of ne bis in idem, proportionality and non‑discrimination must be interpreted as not precluding the cumulative application of those measures.
  4. Article 26(1) of Regulation No 968/2006 must be interpreted as meaning that, in circumstances such as those at issue in the main proceedings, if an undertaking has complied with its commitment partially to dismantle the production facilities of the factories concerned but not its commitment to renounce the quota for the production of sugar, isoglucose and inulin syrup that has been allocated to it and assigned by it to one or more of its factories, referred to in Article 3(1)(b) of Regulation No 320/2006, the amount of the aid to be recovered is equal to the part of the aid corresponding to the commitment that has not been complied with. That part of the aid must be determined on the basis of the amounts laid down in Article 3(5) of Regulation No 320/2006.