Case C-273/04, Poland v Council

Poland argued that Article 1(5) of Decision 2004/281 could not be based on Article 23 of the Act of Accession. Poland contended that the measures amounted to a fundamental alteration of the conditions of accession defined in that Act that was detrimental to the Poland. Poland also argued that the contested measure was contrary to the objective of the Accession Treaty of ensuring full assumption by the new Member States of the rights and duties deriving from membership of the EU and infringed the principle of non-discrimination set out in Articles 12 and 34(2) of the EC Treaty.

Although there were several issues raised concerning the admissibility of this case, the Court simply held that it was “necessary to rule at the outset on the substance of the case”. (para. 33.)

The Court held that the objective of Article 23 of the Act of Accession was to enable the Council to adopt the measures necessary to ensure that the Act of Accession was brought into alignment with changes in legislation made by the institutions within the CAP between the signature of that Act and the actual accession of the new Member States.

However, the power thus granted could not be interpreted broadly; otherwise “the Court would misconstrue the outcome of the negotiations of the conditions of accession of those States.”

With regard to the concept of “necessary adaptations”, the Court held that the adaptation measures provided for by “necessary adaptations” in the context of acts of accession, as a general rule, authorised only adaptations intended to render earlier Community measures applicable in the new Member States, to the exclusion of all other amendments.

The Court found that, therefore, the concept of “adaptation” must be restricted to measures which could not in any way affect the scope of one of the provisions of the Act of Accession relating to the CAP nor substantially alter its content, but which solely represented adjustments designed to ensure consistency between the Act and new provisions adopted by the Community institutions between the signature of the Act of Accession and actual accession.

According to the Court, it could not be held that the contested decision introduced a substantive amendment either to the scope of the phasing-in system, or to the fundamental content of the obligations and rights flowing from it, since neither the schedule, nor the percentages, nor the aid concerned were affected.

In those circumstances, the contested decision must be held to be a “necessary adaptation” of the Act of Accession.

Consequently, by adopting that decision, the Council did not exceed the competence conferred on it by Article 23 of the Act of Accession to make the adaptations to the provisions of the Act relating to the CAP which might prove necessary as a result of a modification of Community rules.

With regard to the principle of equal treatment, the Court held that this principle required that comparable situations must not be treated differently and that different situations must not be treated in the same way unless such treatment was objectively justified. The applicant was not in a situation comparable to that of the old Member, which prevented any valid comparison being made.

Text of Judgment