The Grand Chamber today dismissed the appeal by the seal hunters to annul the basic regulation prohibiting the marketing of seal products on the EU internal market. As expected, the CJEU held that the seal hunters lacked standing to challenge a legislative act. This does not mean that the seal hunters will not prevail in the end (although I doubt it), as they have also challenged the Commission implementing Regulation, which will enable them to challenge the basic Regulation too (the decision of the GC in that case can be found here and my comments are here). What makes the judgment worth mentioning here though, is the more general relevance of the Grand Chamber’s interpretation of the concept of a ‘regulatory act’. This concept was introduced with the Lisbon Treaty and was intended to make it easier to challenge EU legal acts which were not of a legislative nature.
One of the hottest topics in international trade law currently is the seals dispute between the EU and a number of arctic countries, notably Canada and Norway. The dispute has not only given rise to proceedings before the WTO (providing more wood for the ongoing fiery debate on the legality of PPM-measures), but has also found its way to Luxembourg in the form of a number of direct actions for annulment of EU regulations banning trade in seal products.
Today’s Opinion of Advocate General Kokott (Opinion in Case C-583/11P Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Others v Parliament and Council) concerns one of those cases. It also concerns one of the most contentious issues in EU law: the locus standi of individuals for a direct action for annulment of EU legal acts (see my previous post on the judgment of the General Court). As is well known, the CJEU has taken a very restrictive stance on the locus standi of non-privileged applicants (that is: individual parties, rather than privileged applicants such as Member States and the EU institutions, as mentioned in the second and third paragraph of article 263 TFEU). The criteria for direct and individual concern are so strict that it is very difficult for individuals to directly challenge EU legal acts. In particular, the requirement for individual concern, also known as the ‘Plaumann formula’ (see the bottom of page 107 in Case 25/62 Plaumann v. Commission), is especially hard for individuals to meet.