Article 47 - Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Key facts of the case:
By their appeal, T & L Sugars Ltd and Sidul Açúcares, Unipessoal Lda (‘T & L Sugars’ and ‘Sidul Açúcares’, respectively,) seek to have set aside the judgment of the General Court in T&L Sugars and Sidul Açúcares v Commission (T‑279/11, EU:T:2013:299; ‘the judgment under appeal’), by which that court dismissed their action for annulment of Commission Regulation (EU) No 222/2011 of 3 March 2011 laying down exceptional measures as regards the release of out-of-quota sugar and isoglucose on the Union market at reduced surplus levy during marketing year 2010/2011 (OJ 2011 L 60, p. 6), Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 293/2011 of 23 March 2011 fixing allocation coefficient, rejecting further applications and closing the period for submitting applications for available quantities of out-of-quota sugar to be sold on the Union market at reduced surplus levy (OJ 2011 L 79, p. 8), Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 302/2011 of 28 March 2011 opening an exceptional import tariff quota for certain quantities of sugar in the 2010/11 marketing year (OJ 2011 L 81, p. 8) and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 393/2011 of 19 April 2011 fixing the allocation coefficient for the issuing of import licences applied for from 1 to 7 April 2011 for sugar products under certain tariff quotas and suspending submission of applications for such licences (OJ 2011 L 104, p. 39)(collectively, ‘the contested regulations’).
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby
43. As regards the argument which the appellants derive from Article 47 of the Charter, it appears from settled case-law that that article is not intended to change the system of judicial review laid down by the Treaties, and particularly the rules relating to the admissibility of direct actions brought before the Courts of the European Union, as is apparent also from the Explanation on Article 47 of the Charter, which must, in accordance with the third subparagraph of Article 6(1) TEU and Article 52(7) of the Charter, be taken into consideration for the interpretation of the Charter (see judgments in Sky Österreich, C‑283/11, EU:C:2013:28, paragraph 42; Alemo-Herron and Others, C‑426/11, EU:C:2013:521, paragraph 32; and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 97).
44. Accordingly, the conditions of admissibility laid down in the fourth paragraph of Article 263 TFEU must be interpreted in the light of the fundamental right to effective judicial protection, but such an interpretation cannot have the effect of setting aside those conditions, which are expressly laid down in that Treaty (see, to that effect, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 98 and the case-law cited).
45. However, judicial review of compliance with the European Union legal order is ensured, as can be seen from Article 19(1) TEU, not only by the Court of Justice but also by the courts and tribunals of the Member States. The FEU Treaty has, by Articles 263 TFEU and 277 TFEU, on the one hand, and Article 267 TFEU, on the other, established a complete system of legal remedies and procedures designed to ensure judicial review of the legality of acts of the institutions, and has entrusted such review to the European Union judicature (judgments in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraphs 90 and 92, and Telefónica v Commission, C‑274/12 P, EU:C:2013:852, paragraph 57).
46. In that connection, it must be emphasised that, in proceedings before the national courts, individual parties have the right to challenge before the courts the legality of any decision or other national measure relative to the application to them of a European Union act of general application, by pleading the invalidity of such an act (see, to that effect, judgments in E and F, C‑550/09, EU:C:2010:382, paragraph 45, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 94).
47. It follows that references on validity constitute, like actions for annulment, means for reviewing the legality of European Union acts (judgments in Zuckerfabrik Süderdithmarschen and Zuckerfabrik Soest, C‑143/88 and C‑92/89, EU:C:1991:65, paragraph 18; ABNA and Others, C‑453/03, C‑11/04, C‑12/04 and C‑194/04, EU:C:2005:741, paragraph 103; and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 95).
48. In that regard, it must be borne in mind that where a national court or tribunal considers that one or more arguments for invalidity of a European Union act, put forward by the parties or, as the case may be, raised by it of its own motion, are well founded, it is incumbent upon it to stay proceedings and to make a reference to the Court for a preliminary ruling on the act’s validity, the Court alone having jurisdiction to declare a European Union act invalid (judgments in IATA and ELFAA, C‑344/04, EU:C:2006:10, paragraphs 27 and 30 and the case law cited, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 96).
49. As regards persons who do not fulfil the requirements of the fourth paragraph of Article 263 TFEU for bringing an action before the Courts of the European Union, it is for the Member States to establish a system of legal remedies and procedures which ensure respect for the fundamental right to effective judicial protection (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 100 and the case-law cited).
50. That obligation on the Member States was reaffirmed by the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU, which states that Member States ‘shall provide remedies sufficient to ensure effective judicial protection in the fields covered by EU law’ (see judgment in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council, C‑583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, paragraph 101). That obligation also follows from Article 47 of the Charter as regards measures taken by the Member States to implement Union law within the meaning of Article 51(1) of the Charter.