This blogpost concerns probably my favorite EU law topic: the scope of the Common Commercial Policy (CCP). The scope of the CCP as a source of litigation between the Council and the Commission goes way back and most likely will continue to be so for a considerable time. The reasons are quite simple: the Common Commercial Policy is an important foreign policy tool and exclusive EU competence. As such, Member States are not entitled to act within this politically sensitive field. This is different with respect to shared competences of course, which enable Member States – subject to the Treaties – to continue to make policy that is not in violation of existing secondary legislation. In the most recent edition of this feud between the Commission and the Council, the scope of the Common Commercial Policy was at issue vis-à-vis the scope of internal market competences. Litigation in the past has usually evolved around the relationship between trade (art. 207 TFEU) and environment (art. 192 TFEU), so this case is a welcome variant to that strand of case law already explored in the Daiichi Sankyo case (commented here). In this case the Commission won yet another victory against the Council.
In a second round of cases in Luxembourg, a number of seal hunters failed (yet again) to convince the General Court to annul the EU-wide ban on trade in seal products. In a nutshell, the seal hunters argued that the EU acted ultra vires by adopting the ban on the basis of article 114 TFEU (harmonization of rules for the establishment and functioning of the internal market). Moreover, the applicants argued that the ban violated their fundamental rights and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. According to the applicants, the EU-wide ban was not aimed at improving the functioning of the internal market, but rather at safeguarding the welfare of animals, an objective for which no legal basis exists within the EU Treaties.
In dismissing the arguments put forward by the seal hunters, the General Court made a number of interesting statements regarding the EU’s ability to severely restrict trade of an ‘exotic import’ (a product not made within the EU) within the EU’s internal market on grounds of protecting the welfare of animals living outside the EU. In this post I will focus on the competence issue by discussing the particularities of EU constitutional law and the (modest) challenge a ban on the sale of exotic imports such as seal products poses for EU legislative competence.