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.
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.