CJEU - T-817/14 / Judgment Zoofachhandel Züpke GmbH

Key facts of the case:

Non-contractual liability — Health policy — Combating avian influenza — Prohibition of the importation of captured wild birds into the European Union — Regulation (EC) No 318/2007 and Implementing Regulation (EU) No 139/2013 — Sufficiently serious breach of rules of law conferring rights on individuals — Manifest and serious disregard for the limits of discretion — Proportionality — Duty of care — Articles 15 to 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

THE GENERAL COURT (Eighth Chamber) hereby:

  1. Dismisses the action;
  2. Orders Zoofachhandel Züpke GmbH, Zoohaus Bürstadt, Helmut Ofenloch GmbH & Co. KG, Zoofachgeschäft — Vogelgroßhandel Import-Export Heinz Marche, Ms Rita Bürgel and Mr Norbert Kass, in addition to bearing their own costs, to pay the costs incurred by the European Commission.
Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 
  1. It has consistently been held that the freedom to choose an occupation, the freedom to conduct a business and the right to property are fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 15 to 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Nonetheless, those rights do not constitute absolute prerogatives, but must be viewed in relation to their social function. Consequently, the exercise of those rights may be restricted, provided that those restrictions in fact correspond to objectives of public interest pursued by the European Union and that they do not constitute, with regard to the aim pursued, a disproportionate and intolerable interference which infringes upon the very substance of the rights thus guaranteed (see, to that effect, judgment in ATC and Others, cited in paragraph 31 above, EU:T:2013:451, paragraph 188 and the case law cited). 
  1. It follows from all of the foregoing considerations that the measures contained in Regulation No 318/2007 and Implementing Regulation No 139/2013 are legitimate restrictions and are proportionate, within the meaning of the case-law cited in paragraph 126 above, to the applicants’ freedom to choose an occupation and freedom to conduct a business, and to their right to property, in accordance with Article 52(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and that, by adopting those regulations and maintaining them in force, the Commission, in the exercise of its wide discretion, did not make any manifest error or commit any serious breach of those fundamental rights. 
  1. Since, in adopting and maintaining in force Regulation No 318/2007 and Implementing Regulation No 139/2013, the Commission did not make any manifest error in the exercise of its wide discretion and did not commit a sufficiently serious breach of either the principle of proportionality, by taking the precautionary principle into account, or of its duty of care, or of the applicants’ fundamental rights under Articles 15 to 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, it must be concluded that the applicants have failed in the present case to establish the existence of illegal conduct on the part of the Commission.