A long-running legal battle between Czech ministries and the European Commission over high agricultural goods surpluses run up by the country before joining the EU has resulted in a court victory for Prague. The Czech Republic can now seek the return of the €12.287 billion fine which has already been paid.
The Czech Ministry of Agriculture has hailed a court victory against the European Commission which should result in the return of around €12.287 billion.
That penalty was inflicted on the Czech Republic and three other new member states in 2007, after Brussels argued that they had run up excessive stocks of some agricultural products on the eve of their entry into the EU in May 2004. ‘[This] confirms that the Czech Republic was on the receiving end of unjustified sanctions from the Commission.’
On Thursday, the Luxembourg-based General Court of the European Union annulled the decision. One of the arguments used to shoot down the penalties was that the sums fixed did not reflect the costs of getting rid of the surpluses, as they should have, but were “straightforward payments imposed on the new member states for the benefit of the community.” The type of penalties imposed by the Commission were not covered by the act of accession to the EU, it added.
“This is a significant success, which after almost five years of legal battles crowns the long-running efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and confirms that the Czech Republic was on the receiving end of unjustified sanctions from the Commission,” the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement.
Substantial fines were imposed on Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania as well as the Czech Republic with Prague paying the second highest penalty after Warsaw.
An appeal against the court decision on points of law can still be made within two months.