Article 41 - Right to good administration
Article 48 - Presumption of innocence and right of defence
Key facts of the case:
Appeal – Agreements, decisions and concerted practices – European steel abrasives market – Participation in bilateral and multilateral contacts with the aim of coordinating prices throughout the European Economic Area (EEA) – ‘Hybrid’ procedure having led successively to the adoption of a settlement decision and a decision made under the ordinary procedure – Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Article 41 – Principle of impartiality of the European Commission – Article 48 – Presumption of innocence – Obligation to state reasons – Single and continuous infringement – Duration of the infringement – Equal treatment – Unlimited jurisdiction.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Fourth Chamber) hereby:
58) In that regard, it should be borne in mind that the Commission is required, during the administrative procedure, to respect the fundamental rights of the undertakings concerned. These include the right to good administration, enshrined in Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), according to which every person has the right, inter alia, to have his or her affairs handled impartially by the institutions of the European Union. That requirement of impartiality encompasses, on the one hand, subjective impartiality, in so far as no member of the institution concerned who is responsible for the matter may show bias or personal prejudice, and, on the other hand, objective impartiality, in so far as there must be sufficient guarantees to exclude any legitimate doubt as to bias on the part of the institution concerned (see, to that effect, judgment of 11 July 2013, Ziegler v Commission, C‑439/11 P, EU:C:2013:513, paragraphs 154 and 155).
60) The presumption of innocence constitutes a general principle of EU law, laid down in Article 48(1) of the Charter (judgment of 22 November 2012, E.ON Energie v Commission, C‑89/11 P, EU:C:2012:738, paragraph 72).
61) Article 48 of the Charter corresponds to Article 6(2) and (3) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 (‘the ECHR’), as is apparent from the explanations relating to that provision of the Charter. It follows, in accordance with Article 52(3) of the Charter, that it is necessary to take account of Article 6(2) and (3) of the ECHR for the purposes of interpreting Article 48 of the Charter, as a minimum threshold of protection (judgment of 5 September 2019, AH and Others (Presumption of innocence), C‑377/18, EU:C:2019:670, paragraph 41).