- The legal remedies available to individuals against European Union acts of general application have long been one of the most contentious issues in EU law. Starting with Plaumann, (2) the Court has adopted, in settled case-law, first on Article 173 of the EEC Treaty and subsequently on Article 230 EC, a relatively strict understanding of the direct standing of natural and legal persons to institute proceedings. Despite much criticism, the Court adhered to this case-law until very recently, confirming it in particular in Unión de Pequeños Agricultores (3) and Jégo-Quéré. (4)
- Not least as a reaction to this case-law, the Treaty of Lisbon introduced a reform of the standing of individuals to institute proceedings, which entered into force on 1 December 2009. Since then, the fourth paragraph of Article 263 TFEU has also permitted natural and legal persons to bring an action for annulment ‘against a regulatory act which is of direct concern to them and does not entail implementing measures’.
- It is admittedly still fiercely debated how far that reform extended the standing of individuals to institute proceedings. In the present appeal proceedings, the Court is asked to rule on precisely this contentious issue and to take a position in particular on the interpretation of the notion of ‘regulatory act’. (5) Above all, it must be clarified whether European Union legislative acts can also be categorised as regulatory acts.
- The cause of the present dispute is Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 on trade in seal products, which was jointly adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on 16 September 2009. (6) That regulation introduced a ban on the placing on the market of seal products in the European internal market, against which Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as the body representing the interests of the Canadian Inuit, (7) and a number of other parties – mainly producers of or traders in seal products – are seeking legal protection in the European Union Courts.
- The claim made by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and its co-appellants was unsuccessful at first instance. The General Court of the European Union dismissed their action for annulment as inadmissible by order of 6 September 2011 (8) (also ‘the order under appeal’). As grounds, the General Court stated in particular that Regulation No 1007/2009 is a legislative act which cannot be regarded as a regulatory act within the meaning of the fourth paragraph of
- Dismisses the appeal;
- Orders the European Commission to bear its own costs;
- Orders, for the remainder, the appellants jointly and severally to bear the costs of the proceedings.