Key facts of the case:
APPLICATION for annulment of Cedefop’s decision of 15 July 2013 refusing access to the minutes of its Governing Board, those of its Bureau and those of the ‘Knowledge Management System’ Steering Group for the period from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2005; for an order that Cedefop supply the requested documents and a request to authorise, pursuant to Article 16 of Regulation (EEC) No 337/75 of the Council of 10 February 1975 establishing a European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (OJ 1975 L 39, p. 1), and to Article 1 of the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, the Greek national authorities to enter the premises and buildings of Cedefop, in accordance with the applicable Greek legislation, to investigate, search and confiscate in those premises and buildings, in order to obtain the requested documents and to investigate possible offences
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
THE GENERAL COURT (Fifth Chamber) hereby:
17. In the reply, the applicant requests the Court to reconsider the case-law set out in paragraph 16 above on the ground that it does not ensure proper implementation of the rights conferred by Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union when the right to a fair trial is deliberately infringed by an institution. He submits that the power held by the institutions to implement judgments annulling measures may lead to their abuse of that power, in order to prevent European citizens from exercising their fundamental rights. In order to apply those rights, he submits, it is necessary to extend the legal protection of the citizen to cases in which a direction is issued to the institutions.
18. On this point, it is to be remembered that the European Union is a union based on the rule of law in which the acts of its institutions are subject to review of their compatibility with, in particular, the Treaties, general principles of law and fundamental rights (judgments of 3 October 2013 in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others vParliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, ECR, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 91, and 19 December 2013 in Telefónica v Commission, C‑274/12 P, ECR, EU:C:2013:852, paragraph 56).
19. Judicial review of compliance with the European Union legal order is ensured, as can be seen from Article 19(1) TEU, by the Court of Justice and the courts and tribunals of the Member States. To that end, the FEU Treaty has established, by Articles 263 TFEU and 277 TFEU, on the one hand, and Article 267 TFEU, on the other, a complete system of legal remedies and procedures designed to ensure judicial review of the legality of European Union acts, and has entrusted such review to the European Union judicature (judgments in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, cited in paragraph 18 above, EU:C:2013:625, paragraphs 90 and 92, and Telefónica vCommission, cited in paragraph 18 above, EU:C:2013:852, paragraph 57).
20. It must also be recalled that, according to case-law, the absence of other judicial remedies cannot in itself give rise to European Union jurisdiction in a legal system based on the principle of conferred powers (see, to that effect, judgments of 25 July 2002 in Unión de Pequeños Agricultores v Council, C‑50/00 P, ECR, EU:C:2002:462, paragraphs 44 and 45; Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, cited in paragraph 18 above, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 81, and order of 7 June 2004 in Segi and Others v Council, T‑338/02, ECR, EU:T:2004:171, paragraph 38).
21. It must be pointed out in that context that, whilst Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights confers the right to an effective remedy, it is not intended to change the system of judicial review laid down by the Treaties, as is also apparent from the part of the Explanations relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights that pertains to that article. Those explanations must, in accordance with the third subparagraph of Article 6(1) TEU and Article 52(7) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, be taken into consideration for the interpretation of the Charter (see, to this effect, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, cited in paragraph 18 above, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 97 and the case-law cited).
22. Therefore, if the system of legal remedies laid down by the Treaty is not to be completely disregarded, it is not possible to grant individuals the right to request the Court to order the EU institutions to undertake or not to undertake a specific action with a view to ensuring their effective judicial protection.
23. In addition, were the Court, at the end of the examination in the present action, to annul the contested decision, the obligation on an EU institution, under Article 266 TFEU, to comply with a judgment annulling a measure delivered by the EU judicature should lead Cedefop, the author of the annulled decision, to eliminate that illegality in the decision intended to replace it, which should be taken within a reasonable period. Were that not to occur, the applicant would be entitled, under Article 265 TFEU, to request Cedefop to take action to that effect and, in the event that Cedefop fails to adopt a position, to bring an action for failure to act before the Court seeking a declaration that the institution’s refusal is illegal. Moreover, should Cedefop, following the request to take action, adopt a new decision refusing the request for access to documents, the applicant could seek the annulment of that decision before the Court under the conditions laid down in Article 263 TFEU.
24. As regards the reference made in Article 48(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guarantees respect for the rights of the defence of anyone who has been charged, the applicant submits that, even if the Court annulled the contested decision, Cedefop could delay the disclosure of the requested documents to the point where they would no longer be useful for the purposes of his defence in the proceedings before the Greek courts.
25. On that issue, the applicant’s line of argument is not very detailed and it does not show clearly whether the infringement of the rights of the defence which he relies upon would be committed in the criminal proceedings before the Greek courts or in the administrative procedure followed by Cedefop in the event of the annulment of the contested decision.
26. In the former situation, it must be stated that the Court has no jurisdiction to examine directly whether criminal proceedings conducted before a Member State court respect the rights of the defence of anyone who has been charged, as laid down in Article 48(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
27. In the latter situation, it must be recalled that, if the contested decision were annulled, Cedefop would have to eliminate the illegality, as found in the Court’s judgment bringing the present proceedings to an end, in the decision intended to replace the contested decision, which would have to be taken within a reasonable period (see paragraph 23 above), with the proviso that the annulment of the contested decision might not necessarily lead to the disclosure of the documents requested by the applicant. In any event, the rights of the defence referred to in Article 48(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights may not be relied upon in an administrative procedure such as that provided for by Regulation No 1049/2001.