Order of the Court of First Instance (Fifth Chamber) of 30 September 1997. - Federazione nazionale del commercio oleario (Federolio) v Commission of the European Communities. - Agriculture - Common organization of the markets - Olive oil - Consumption aid - Regulation (EC) No 887/96 - Action for annulment - Association of traders - Inadmissibility. - Case T-122/96.
European Court reports 1997 Page II-01559
Actions for annulment - Natural or legal persons - Measures of direct and individual concern to them - Regulation providing for a system of penalties in the event of failure to conform with the Community rules within the framework of the system of aid for the consumption of olive oil - Action by an association of approved undertakings recognized as a trade organization for the purpose of administering the aid - Inadmissibility
(EC Treaty, Arts 173, fourth para., and 189; Council Regulation No 887/96, Art. 1)
An action brought by an association of traders, recognized by a Member State as a trade organization for the purpose of applying the system of aid for the consumption of olive oil, for the annulment of Regulation No 887/96 laying down implementing rules in respect of that system, in so far as Article 1 of that regulation introduced a system of penalties with respect to approved packaging plants, when the oil in respect of which aid was granted does not exhibit the characteristics laid down by the Community rules in order to benefit from such aid, is inadmissible.
That regulation is, by its nature and its scope, legislative in character and does not constitute a decision within the meaning of Article 189 of the Treaty since, notwithstanding the relatively small number of packaging undertakings receiving consumption aid at the time when it was adopted, it provides for penalties to be imposed on the basis of an objective situation, namely the fact that the quality and/or type of oil declared does not correspond to the quality and/or type specified by the applicable legislation, which is defined with reference to the objective of the regulation, namely the prevention and repression of fraud according to the gravity of the infringement and involves legal effects with respect to categories of persons defined in a general and abstract manner.
The association in question is not affected by the contested regulation by reason of certain attributes which are peculiar to it or by reason of circumstances in which it is differentiated from all other persons, in such a way that it can be considered to be individually concerned within the meaning of the fourth paragraph of Article 173 of the Treaty. Firstly, none of the regulations concerning the grant of aid for the consumption of olive oil grants any procedural rights whatever to trade associations such as the applicant and it is stated that they may not, in that respect, rely on the specific tasks and duties which national law recognizes them as having. Secondly, notwithstanding their small number, the packaging undertakings which are members of the association and are affected by the regulation are in a situation which is comparable with that of any other undertaking which might enter the olive-oil packaging market and seek consumption aid. Thirdly, the regulation at issue does not affect the applicant's own interests as an association, nor are its institutional role and its capacity as a body responsible for the payment of aid to its members such as to distinguish it individually.
Furthermore, the fact that the admissibility of an action for annulment brought by an association representing the interests of certain undertakings may depend on the relevant regulatory framework - since, in one context, it can distinguish itself individually by participating in the administrative procedure preceding the adoption of the contested act, whilst, in a different context, it would not be able to do so in the absence of a legislative provision providing for such participation - does not constitute a breach of the principle of equality provided that it has not been established that, by so acting, the Community legislature infringed general principles of Community law, such as the right to be heard. In that respect, the very nature of the process of preparing legislative acts and of such acts themselves, as measures of general application, is such that the participation, by virtue of those principles, of the persons and/or associations affected is not required, their interests being deemed to be represented by the political authorities called upon under the Treaty to adopt those acts.