Article 8 - Protection of personal data
Key facts of the case:
Appeal – Article 181 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice – Action for failure to act – Article 265 TFEU – Law governing the institutions – Documents available to the public on the internet relating to closed General Court of the European Union and European Union Civil Service Tribunal cases – Request for anonymity ex post – Failure by the Court of Justice of the European Union to reply before the action was brought at first instance – Position adopted in the course of the proceedings – Action which has become devoid of purpose – No need to adjudicate – Appeal manifestly unfounded.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Seventh Chamber) hereby orders:
13) In paragraph 12 of the order under appeal, the General Court stated that, in the email of 6 September 2018, which was presented in the application at first instance as a ‘request to act’ within the meaning of Article 265 TFEU, the appellant had asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to grant him, ex post, anonymity in the cases in question or, in the alternative, to ensure that nominal versions are not accessible to internet search engine providers. The General Court stated that, in support of that request, which followed a previous request that the appellant had submitted by email on 6 January 2017 and which had been refused by the Court of Justice of the European Union by email on 20 April 2017 (‘the email of 20 April 2017’), the appellant relied, in particular, on a press release from that institution, dated 28 June 2018, regarding the ‘future anonymisation of the names of natural persons involved in any preliminary ruling procedures brought after 1 July 2018’, and on a new legal basis — Article 8(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), concerning the right to rectification of personal data, which had not been raised in his previous request.
21) In the first place, the appellant claims that paragraphs 12 and 13 of the order under appeal are based on the premiss that his emails of 6 January 2017 and of 6 September 2018 asking the Court of Justice of the European Union to act had the same legal basis, namely Article 8 of the Charter, which is incorrect.
22) The appellant claims, in this regard, that, while the legal basis of his first request, dated 6 January 2017, was the right to object under Article 21(1) of Regulation 2016/679 and, more generally, the right of every individual to the protection of personal data concerning them, enshrined in Article 8 of the Charter, his second request, dated 6 September 2018, was based on four legal bases, namely (i) the right to object provided for in Article 21(1) of Regulation 2016/679, or its equivalent provided for in Article 18(a) of Regulation No 45/2001, (ii) the principle of equal treatment, enshrined in Article 20 of the Charter, (iii) Article 8(2) of the Charter, which provides that personal data should be processed on a legitimate basis laid down by law, the meaning of which was set out in Article 5 of Regulation No 45/2001, which was adopted on the basis of Article 16(2) TFEU, and (iv) the right to an effective remedy, enshrined in Article 47 of the Charter.
33) In that regard, it must be noted that, indeed, in that email, the Court of Justice of the European Union neither expressly mentioned Articles 20 and 47 of the Charter nor considered that Article 8(2) of the Charter constituted a new point of law. However, the wording of that email, from which it emerges that ‘based on a mere verification of [CJ]’s request of  September 2018, no elements of fact or of law that could be treated as new and substantial and would justify carrying [out] a reassessment of [the appellant]’s situation [were] identified’, leaves no doubt as to how the Court of Justice of the European Union treated the appellant’s request of 6 September 2018.
38) By the second ground of appeal, the appellant claims, in essence, that, even if it may be considered that the Court of Justice of the European Union defined its position, within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 265 TFEU, in the email of 11 January 2019, the General Court should in any event be required to adjudicate on the action before it in order to address an infringement, by the EU institution concerned, of the right to sound administration, enshrined in Article 41(1) of the Charter, in conjunction with Article 47 thereof.
39) According to the appellant, the Court of Justice of the European Union infringed that right in its handling of his request of 6 September 2018, as a result of its failure to comply with the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour, in particular Article 17 of that code, headed ‘Reasonable time limit for taking decisions’, and Article 19 of that code, headed ‘Indication of appeal possibilities’, as well as the principle of equal treatment, which requires an EU institution against which an action is brought to assert its arguments in the procedure regarding the examination of that action and not outside of it. The appellant criticises the General Court for failing to adjudicate, in the order under appeal, on the pleas he had raised, notwithstanding the procedure he had chosen, in breach of the obligation to state sufficient reasons referred to in the first sentence of Article 36 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union and of the right to an effective remedy, enshrined in Article 47 of the Charter.