Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Approximation of laws — Road transport — Tax provisions — Directive 1999/62/EC — Charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures — Toll — Obligation of the Member States to establish effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties — Flat-rate fine — Principle of proportionality — Direct applicability of the directive.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Fifth Chamber) hereby rules:
The requirement of proportionality in Article 9a of Directive 1999/62/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 1999 on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures, as amended by Directive 2011/76/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2011, cannot be regarded as having direct effect.
The national court must, by virtue of its duty to take all appropriate measures, whether general or particular, to ensure the implementation of that provision, interpret national law in conformity with that provision or, if such an interpretation is not possible, disapply any national provision in so far as its application would, in the circumstances of the case, lead to a result contrary to EU law.
41) That principle, which is also guaranteed by Article 49(3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), which provides that the severity of penalties must not be disproportionate to the criminal offence, is binding on Member States when they are implementing EU law, in accordance with Article 51(1) of the Charter.
42) The severity of a penalty must thus correspond to the seriousness of the offence concerned, that requirement following both from Article 52(1) of the Charter and from the principle of proportionality of penalties in Article 49(3) of the Charter (see, to that effect, judgment of 20 March 2018, Garlsson Real Estate and Others, C‑537/16, EU:C:2018:193, paragraph 56).
43) It follows from the Explanations relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (OJ 2007 C 303, p. 17) that, under Article 52(3) of the Charter, in so far as the right guaranteed by Article 49 of the Charter also corresponds to a right guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed at Rome on 4 November 1950 (‘the ECHR’), its meaning and scope are the same as those laid down by the ECHR. Consequently, the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the proportionality of penalties apply to a case such as that in the main proceedings by the combined effect of Article 17(1), Article 51(1) and Article 52(1) and (3) of the Charter.