Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Environment — Directive 2001/42/EC — Assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment — Article 3(3) — Plans and programmes which require an environmental assessment only where the Member States determine that they are likely to have significant environmental effects — Validity in the light of the TFEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Meaning of use of ‘small areas at local level’ — National legislation referring to the size of the areas concerned
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Third Chamber) hereby rules:
- The examination of the first question referred has disclosed no factor of such a kind as to affect the validity of Article 3(3) of Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, in the light of the provisions of the TFEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
- Article 3(3) of Directive 2001/42, read in conjunction with recital 10 of that directive, must be interpreted to the effect that the term ‘small areas at local level’ in paragraph 3 must be defined with reference to the size of the area concerned where the following conditions are fulfilled:
– the plan or programme is prepared and/or adopted by a local authority, as opposed to a regional or national authority, and
– that area inside the territorial jurisdiction of the local authority is small in size relative to that territorial jurisdiction.
61. Furthermore, as regards the question that Article 3(3) of Directive 2001/42 might be invalid in the light of Article 37 of the Charter, it must be recalled that, under the terms of that article, a ‘high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development’.
62. In that regard, it must be pointed out that Article 52(2) of the Charter provides that rights recognised by the Charter for which provision is made in the Treaties are to be exercised under the conditions and within the limits defined by those Treaties. Such is the case with Article 37 of the Charter. As is apparent from the explanations relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (OJ 2007 C 303, p. 17) in connection with that provision, the ‘principles set out in [Article 37 of the Charter] have been based on Articles 2, 6 and 174 [EC], which have now been replaced by Article 3(3) [TEU] and Articles 11 and 191 [TFEU].’
63. Since, as has been established in paragraph 60 above, Article 3(3) of Directive 2001/42 has revealed nothing which could affect its validity in the light of Article 191 TFEU, it follows that that provision also reveals nothing which could affect its validity in the light of Article 37 of the Charter.
64. It follows from the foregoing considerations that the examination of the first question referred has disclosed no factor of such a kind as to affect the validity of Article 3(3) of Directive 2001/42 in the light of the provisions of the TFEU and the Charter.