Case C-417/04 P, Regione Siciliana v. Commission

The fourth case delivered by the Grand Chamber last Thursday which I would like to discuss, is Case C‑417/04 P. But let me start by saying: Happy Europe's Day!

In Case C‑417/04 P, the Regione Siciliana appealed against the order of the Court of First Instance of 8 July 2004 in Case T-341/02, in which the Court of First Instance had dismissed as inadmissible its action for annulment of a Commission Decision of 5 September 2002.

In this decision, addressed to Italy, the Commission had written to the Italian government that it decided to close funding of a construction of a motorway between Palermo and Messina in Sicily and to recover funding already issued, on account of the delays encountered in the execution of this project.

The Commission had granted financial assistance for this project, coming from the European Regional Development Fund, on 22 December 1993. The Regione Siciliana was designated as the authority responsible for the execution of the project.

The Regione Siciliana argued that the contested order is based on a false premiss, that is, that the Regione Siciliana is a person separate from the Italy, the Member State which was the recipient of the financial assistance. It argued that, being a territory forming an integral part of Italy, it had the right, in the same way as the latter, to bring an action for annulment.

The Court however reiterated (see case law below), that an action by a local or regional entity cannot be treated in the same way as an action by a Member State. The term “Member State” in the sense of Article 230 (2) EC refers only to government authorities of the Member States, and does not include the governments of regions or other local authorities within Member States.

The Regione Siciliana argued that – contrary to what the Court of First Instance had held – the contested decision was of direct and individual concern to it in the sense of Article 230 (4).

Since the Commission had not disputed that the decision was of individual concern to the Regione Siciliana, the Court of First Instance had only examined whether it was directly concerned by the decision.

The Court had answered this question in the negative, in sum because the Italian government could decide to bear the burden of reimbursing itself.

The Court of Justice agreed with this holding. It reiterated that the requirement of Article 230(4) “requires the contested Community measure to affect directly the legal situation of the individual and leave no discretion to its addressees, who are entrusted with the task of implementing it, such implementation being purely automatic and resulting from Community rules without the application of other intermediate rules” (para. 28).

The Court held that “there is nothing in the documents before the Court which leads to the conclusion that the appellant was directly concerned, within the meaning of the fourth paragraph of Article 230 EC, in that capacity. In that respect, it should be pointed out that the fact of being the authority responsible for the execution of the project, mentioned in the annex to the decision to grant, did not imply that the applicant was itself entitled to the financial assistance.” (para. 30)

Text of Judgment

Relevant case law:
Case C-404/96 P Glencore Grain v. Commission [1998] ECR I-2435
Case C-180/97 Regione Toscana v. Commission [1997] ECR I‑5245 (Order)
Case C-452/98 Nederlandse Antillen v. Council [2001] ECR I‑8973
Case C-486/01 P National Front v. Parliament [2004] ECR I‑6289