C-15/06 P, Regione Siciliana v Commission

>> Holding applicant not directly concerned does not constitute a denial of justice

In this case, the Regione Siciliana asked the Court of Justice to set aside the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 18 October 2005 in Case T‑60/03 Regione Siciliana v Commission [2005].

In that case, the CFI dismissed as inadmissible its action for annulment of a Commission Decision by which it cancelled the aid of EUR 15 million for ERDF projects, inter alia for a construction work on a dam across the Gibbesi (shown on right).

The Commission lodged a cross-appeal in which it maintained that the CFI infringed Article 230 (4) EC and erred in its reasoning when it dismissed the objection of inadmissibility that the Commission had brought before it.

The Court reiterated that on the basis of Article 230(4) EC, a local or regional entity might, to the extent that it had – like the Regione Siciliana – legal personality under national law, institute proceedings against a decision addressed to it or against a decision which, although in the form of a regulation or a decision addressed to another person, was of direct and individual concern to it (see also Case C‑452/98 Nederlandse Antillen v Council [2001]; Case C‑142/00 P Commission v Nederlandse Antillen [2003]; and Case C‑417/04 P Regione Siciliana v Commission [2006]).

It held that the condition of direct concern required that the contested Community measure to affect directly the legal situation of the individual and left no discretion to its addressees, who were entrusted with the task of implementing it, such implementation being purely automatic and resulting from Community rules without the application of other intermediate rules (see, in particular,
Case C‑404/96 P Glencore Grain v Commission [1998]; Case C‑486/01 P National Front v Parliament [2004]).

The designation of a regional or local entity such as the Regione Siciliana as the authority responsible for the implementation of an ERDF project did not imply that that entity was itself entitled to assistance.

According to the Court, nothing in the documents in the case giving rise to that judgment supported the conclusion that the appellant was directly concerned in its capacity as the authority responsible for the implementation of the project.

Consequently, the Court of First Instance erred in law in considering that the Regione Siciliana was directly concerned by the contested decision.

The Court furthermore held that contrary to the appellant’s assertion, that conclusion did not constitute a denial of justice.

The Court pointed out that individuals were entitled to effective judicial protection of the rights they derived from the Community legal order (see
Case C‑263/02 P Commission v Jégo-Quéré [2004]).

The judicial protection of natural or legal persons who were unable, by reason of the conditions for admissibility laid down in Article 230(4) EC, to challenge directly Community measures of the kind in the present case, must be guaranteed effectively by a right of action before national courts.

National courts were required, in accordance with the principle of cooperation in good faith laid down by Article 10 EC, so far as possible, to interpret and apply national procedural rules governing the exercise of rights of action in a way that enabled those persons to challenge before the courts the legality of any decision or other national measure relative to the application to them of a Community act such as that at issue, by pleading the invalidity of such an act and by asking them to make a reference to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on validity.

Text of Judgment