By Laurens Ankersmit
In Wednesday’s Grand Chamber judgment C-377/12 Commission v Council, the Court annulled the Council’s decision to sign the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the European Union and the Republic of the Philippines because the Council had erroneously used a number of legal bases in addition to the development cooperation legal basis of article 209 TFEU and the common commercial policy legal basis of article 207 TFEU. While the outcome of the judgment is not that surprising, the Court’s reasoning is only partly helpful in shedding further light on the principle of conferral and the choice of the correct legal basis for the conclusion of international agreements when an agreement covers a number of policy areas. This is particularly true for agreements in the field of development cooperation, which traditionally covers cooperation in a multitude of fields not only directly linked to poverty reduction. This blogpost will discuss the two seemingly conflicting tests the Court applies when determining the correct legal basis of a measure and which now appear to have been merged into one test.
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.