Case C‑11/05, Coberco Dairy Foods

Case C‑11/05 concerned the Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code.

This Customs Code establishes a number of customs procedures with economic impact. It also sets up a Customs Code Committee “to ensure close and effective cooperation between the Member States and the Commission in the field of the Customs Code”.

In the present case, Coberco Dairy Foods had made an application for authorisation for processing under customs control to the Dutch customs authorities in respect of three products.

The Customs Code Committee recommended refusal of the application. Consequently, the Dutch customs authorities rejected the application based on the Committee’s conclusion.

A complaint by Coberco was dismissed by the Tax Inspector on 2 April, after which Coberco brought an action before the Amsterdam Regional Court of Appeal, which referred five questions to the Court of Justice.

The Court inter alia asked the court whether the words ‘[t]he Committee’s conclusion shall be taken into account by the customs authorities’ in Article 504(4) of the regulation, meant that the Committee’s conclusions are binding on national customs authorities.

In practice, a number of Member States’ customs authorities automatically follow the Committee’s conclusion when it is negative.

The national court also asked whether the validity of a conclusion of the Committee may be examined in proceedings under Article 234 EC.

The Court, looking at the text of the Regulation as well as the task of the Committee, argued that the national customs may disregard the Committee conclusions provided that they give reasons for their decision in that respect.

The Court, referring to Grimaldi, held that Article 234 confers on the Court jurisdiction to give a preliminary ruling on the validity and interpretation of all acts of the institutions of the Community without exception

The Court however held that because of the objective pursued by the establishment of the Committee, as described above, and also because of the non-binding nature of its conclusions, these conclusions cannot be regarded as constituting "an act of the institutions" in the sense of this case law.

Therefore, the validity of conclusions of the Committee cannot be examined within the framework of Article 234 EC.

Text of Judgment

Relevant case law:
Case C-322/88 Grimaldi [1989] ECR 4407