Case C‑43/12, Commission v. Parliament and Council

Court annuls directive on exchange of information on eight road safety related traffic offenses

>> In 2008, the European Commission submitted to the Parliament and the Council a proposal for a directive seeking, in essence, to facilitate the exchange of information concerning certain road traffic offences and the cross-border enforcement of the sanctions attached to them. That proposal was based on Article 71(1) EC, now Article 91(1)(c) TFEU, which regulates the powers of the European in relation to transport safety. On 25 October 2011, the Parliament and the Council adopted Directive 2011/822, using however as a legal basis Article 87(2) TFEU, the EU’s competence in the field of police cooperation. Taking the view that the directive had been adopted on the incorrect legal basis, the Commission brought annulment proceedings before the Court of Justice.

In short, Directive 2011/822 sets up a procedure for the exchange of information between Member States in relation to eight road traffic offences (speeding, non-use of a seat-belt, failing to stop at a red traffic light, drink-driving, driving under the influence of drugs, failing to wear a crash helmet, use of a forbidden lane and illegally using a mobile telephone). The Member States may thus access each other's national data concerning vehicle registration in order to determine the person liable for the offence.

The Court first of all reiterated that, the choice of legal basis for a European Union measure must rest on objective factors that were amenable to judicial review; these included the aim and content of that measure (see e.g. Case C‑411/06 Commission v Parliament and Council EU, and Case C‑130/10 Parliament v Council).

The Court added that if examination of the measure concerned revealed that it pursued a twofold purpose or that it had a twofold component and if one of those was identifiable as the main or predominant purpose or component, whereas the other was merely incidental, that measure must be based on a single legal basis, namely that required by the main or predominant purpose or component (see e.g. Case C‑137/12 Commission v Council).

The Court thus found that in order to assess whether the present action was well founded, both the aim and the content of Directive 2011/82 must therefore be examined, in order to determine whether that directive could have been validly adopted — as contended by the Council and the Parliament — on the basis of Article 87(2) TFEU rather than on the basis of Article 91(1)(c) TFEU, which was relied on by the Commission as the appropriate legal basis.

The Court found that the  system of information exchange as laid down in the Directive might  increase deterrence in relation to road traffic offences and induce more cautious behaviour by the driver of a vehicle that was registered in a Member State other than the Member State of the offence, thereby helping to reduce the number of casualties due to road traffic accidents.

The Court thus held that the main aim of Directive 2011/82 was to improve road safety which, as stated in recital 1 in the preamble to that directive, was a prime objective of the European Union’s transport policy.

With regard to the content of Directive 2011/82, the Court found that the system for the exchange of information between the competent authorities of the Member States set up by the directive provided the means of pursuing the objective of improving road safety and enabled the European Union to attain that aim.
The Court thus concluded that since, both in respect of its aims and its content, Directive 2011/82 was  a measure to improve transport safety within the meaning of Article 91(1)(c) TFEU, it should have been adopted on the basis of that provision.  Thus, since the action was well founded, Directive 2011/82 was annulled.

The Court however found that there were important grounds of legal certainty why the Court should maintain the effects of that directive until the entry into force, within a reasonable period of time — which might not exceed twelve months as from the date of delivery of the present judgment — of a new directive based on the correct legal basis -  Article 91(1)(c) of the TFEU.

Text of Judgment