This article provides a detailed summary of the landmark EU case, Plaumann & Co. v Commission (1963), which is essential for EU law students exploring the criteria for individual concern under Article 263 TFEU.

  • In the case of Case 25/62 Plaumann & Co v Commission [1963] ECR 95, the test of individual concern was established in relation to the violation of rights due to EU law.
  • Under Article 263 TFEU, protections against institutions exist when a decision impacts an individual.
  • This case involved custom duties, free movement of goods and European Economic Community law.

Facts of the Case Plaumann & Co v Commission

  • D did not allow import custom duties to be postponed for C to import clementines.
  • C claimed this was an abuse of power.

Issues Plaumann & Co v Commission

  • Was there an individual interest concerned?
  • Are Community institutions upholding the protection of the applicant?
  • Did C have standing for judicial review?

Held by European Court of Justice

  • C had no standing for judicial review – Individual concern could not be proven since anyone in Germany could have imported the fruit.

Advocate General (Herr Karl Roemer)

Individual concern

  • “The words and the natural meaning of the second paragraph of Article 173 of the EEC Treaty which allows an individual to institute proceedings against Decisions addressed to another person which are of direct and individual concern to the former justify the broadest interpretation.”
  • This judicial review failed because importing clementines was a commercial activity conducted by anyone anytime.
  • “Persons other than those to whom the decision was addressed can justifiably claim to be concerned individually only if the decision affects them because of certain characteristics which are peculiar to them or by reason of a factual situation which is, as compared with all other persons, peculiarly relevant to them, and by reference to which they may be individually described in a way similar to that of the addressee of the decision.”
  • “In the present case the applicant is affected by the disputed Decision as an importer of clementines, that is to say, by reason of a commercial activity which may at any time be practised by any person and is not therefore such as to distinguish the applicant in relation to the contested Decision as in the case of the addressee.”
  • Under this test, there may be more than one applicant who is individually concerned.

Significance of Plaumann & Co. v Commission on the Development of the Law

Plaumann & Co. v Commission has had a profound impact on European Union (EU) law, particularly in establishing the criteria for “individual concern.” This case has influenced numerous subsequent cases, significantly shaping the legal framework. Below are three key areas where its impact is most evident:

  • Clarifying the Scope of Direct and Individual Concern: This landmark case set a stringent standard for what constitutes an individual’s direct and personal concern, which has been a critical factor in subsequent judicial decisions. For instance, the case of Van Gend en Loos v Nederlandse Administratie der Belastingen (1963) expanded on direct effect, complementing individual concern and allowing EU laws to be invoked directly in national courts. Before Plaumann, the Fédération Charbonnière de Belgique v High Authority (1960) tackled direct concern, but Plaumann specifically refined the notion of individual concern, impacting how legal standing is determined in EU courts.
  • Influence on Judicial Review and Legal Remedies: Plaumann’s criteria for individual concern have consistently been used to determine who has the standing to challenge EU acts. In Jégo-Quéré & Cie SA v Commission of the European Communities (2002), the Court of First Instance suggested a more lenient interpretation of individual concern, although the European Court of Justice remained faithful to the Plaumann doctrine. Later, in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami et al. v Parliament and Council (2013), the General Court again referred to Plaumann in its decision, underscoring its lasting influence on judicial review processes.
  • Setting a Precedent for Future Legislative Reforms: The stringent criteria set by Plaumann influenced discussions and reforms in the EU’s legal framework, particularly during the Treaty of Lisbon (2007), which sought to reduce the EU’s democratic deficit and make its legal system more accessible. Post-Lisbon, cases like Microban International Ltd and Microban (Europe) Ltd v Commission have shown a trend towards considering the need for effective judicial protection under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, indicating a shift towards more inclusive legal standing criteria.

Exam Questions and Answers

Below, you will find answers to questions that are most commonly asked based on this case.

How did the European Commission initially justify its decision which Plaumann contested?

The European Commission initially justified its decision to deny Plaumann & Co. the right to import oranges under a general system of import licenses by arguing that the measures were part of broader economic policies aimed at stabilizing the market. These policies were designed to manage quotas across member states and were not intended to single out individual companies or affect their business disproportionately. The Commission’s decision was defended as a necessary action within its policy-making prerogatives aimed at protecting the common market. However, in cases like T-Mobile Netherlands BV and others v Raad van bestuur van de Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit (2009), the European Court clarified the obligations of administrative bodies to provide detailed reasons when their decisions negatively impact individual entities, ensuring transparency and accountability under EU law.

What specific legal arguments did Plaumann & Co. present against the Commission’s decision?

Plaumann & Co. presented legal arguments that their situation was unique because their business relied significantly on the import of oranges, and the Commission’s decision affected them more directly and individually than other traders. They argued that the Commission had violated fundamental principles of EU law, including proportionality, non-discrimination, and the right to conduct business, which are enshrined in current EU statutes such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. This case echoes the principles seen in Sturgeon and Others v Condor Flugdienst GmbH (2009), where the European Court held that regulations must not disproportionately affect an individual’s rights without sufficient justification.

Were there any dissenting opinions or alternative legal interpretations presented during the proceedings of Plaumann & Co. v Commission?

During the proceedings, alternative legal interpretations focused on the broader implications of restricting judicial review. Some opinions suggested that the court should adopt a more lenient standard for individual concern to ensure better judicial protection for individual rights against EU institutions. This argument was predicated on the principle that effective judicial protection is a fundamental right under EU law, as reinforced in cases such as Factortame Ltd and Others v Secretary of State for Transport (1990), a pivotal case from the UK where the courts affirmed that national laws must not preclude the rights granted by EU law. These dissenting opinions emphasized a more progressive approach to standing in EU law, advocating for reforms that would eventually influence discussions during the Treaty of Lisbon.