CJEU - C 261/13 P / Opinion Peter Schönberger v European Parliament

Key facts of the case:
 
(Appeal — Right to petition the European Parliament — Articles 20 TFEU and 227 TFEU — Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Lack of competence of the Committee on Petitions to rule on the questions raised — Decision to take no further action on the petition — Action for annulment — Act producing legally binding effects of such a kind as to affect the legal position of an individual — Article 263 TFEU)
 
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
 
92. I propose that the Court should:
  • dismiss the appeal, whilst substituting the grounds of the judgment under appeal;
  • order the appellant to bear his costs and to pay those of the European Parliament.
Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 

 

42. The petitions declared admissible include those closed with a direct reply and those sent for analysis to other institutions or bodies, for an opinion or for information. The Committee on Petitions then usually asks the Commission to provide any relevant information or to give its opinion on the points raised by the petitioner.

43. Under the provisions governing the examination of petitions, it is clear that the powers of the Committee on Petitions are, in reality, rather limited. That Committee ‘is not a judicial body which can decide on the rights and wrongs of a case or whether a correct political decision was made by a Member State authority. The Committee does not have enforcement powers either’.  (51)

44. However, it is clear that the Committee on Petitions enjoys a freedom of discretion as to how to act on a petition. Moreover, the decision on the admissibility of a petition may also be discretionary, notwithstanding the link established with Article 227 TFEU. It is, of course, true that that provision requires that, for a petition to be admissible, it must concern a matter which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity and affect the petitioner directly. However, beyond those formal requirements, it is clear from Rule 201(7) of the amended Rules of Procedure that, if the Committee on Petitions fails to reach a consensus on the admissibility of the petition, it may be declared admissible at the request of at least one quarter of the members of that committee.

45. Finally, I note that the Committee on Petitions considers that ‘the petitions process can, and should, remain complementary to other mechanisms of redress [in broad terms] available to citizens, such as lodging complaints with the Commission or the European Ombudsman’.  (52) The Committee on Petitions, along with other institutions, bodies and instruments such as the committees of inquiry, the European citizens’ initiative and the European Ombudsman, plays an independent and clearly defined role as a point of contact for each individual citizen.  (53)

46. This leads me to examine the issue of the concept of a challengeable act, as interpreted by the General Court in Tegebauer v Parliament (EU:T:2011:466) and which led it in the judgment under appeal to dismiss the action as inadmissible on the ground that, in accordance with the contested decision, the petition had been classified as admissible.

C – The legal effects of the exercise of the right of petition in the light of Article 263 TFEU

  1. The concept of a measure producing legal effects

47. According to settled case-law, an action for annulment may be brought against all measures adopted by the institutions, whatever their nature or form, which are intended to have legal effects. In particular, any measure the legal effects of which are binding on, and capable of affecting the interests of, the applicant by bringing about a significant change in his legal position is considered to be open to challenge in accordance with Article 263 TFEU.  (54) On the other hand, actions directed against decisions which only constitute measures internal to the administration and which as a consequence have no effect which is external to the administration are inadmissible.  (55)

48. Since the present case concerns a measure adopted by the Parliament, it must be noted that, in its judgment in Les Verts v Parliament, the Court held that an action for annulment may lie against measures adopted by the European Parliament which are intended to have legal effects vis-à-vis third parties.  (56) According to settled case-law, measures which relate only to the internal organisation of the work of the Parliament cannot be challenged in an action for annulment.  (57)

49. Accordingly, the Court has held that the declaration by the President of the Parliament that the budgetary procedure has been brought to a close ranks among the acts which are capable of producing legal effects vis-à-vis third parties.  (58) The Court has also held that an action brought against rules on a transitional end-of-service allowance for Members of the European Parliament was admissible.  (59) Judicial review was also made possible in the case of a Parliament resolution specifying the staff dealing with certain activities.  (60)