Commission v Germany: ECJ 11 Aug 1995

Europa In exercising its powers under Articles 155 and 169 of the Treaty, the Commission, when bringing an action for failure to comply with obligations under the Treaty, does not have to show that there is a specific interest in bringing the action. Article 169 is not intended to protect the Commission’ s own rights. The Commission’s function, in the general interest of the Community, is to ensure that the Member States give effect to the Treaty and the provisions adopted by the institutions thereunder and to obtain a declaration of any failure to fulfil the obligations deriving therefrom with a view to bringing it to an end. Given its role as guardian of the Treaty, the Commission alone is therefore competent to decide whether it is appropriate to bring proceedings against a Member State for failure to fulfil its obligations and to determine the conduct or omission attributable to the Member State concerned on the basis of which those proceedings should be brought.
It follows that a Member State which has not transposed, within the prescribed time-limit, a Community directive and against which an action for failure to comply with obligations has been brought in respect, not of the failure to transpose, but of the failure to fulfil in a specific case an obligation flowing from the directive may not plead the fact that it has not taken the necessary measures to implement a directive in order to object to the admissibility of the action and hence to prevent the Court from dealing with an application for a declaration that it has failed to fulfil that obligation.
Nor can it be argued that an action based on the fact that a Member State has not in a specific case fulfilled its obligations under the directive, the merits of which must therefore be assessed by construing the obligations which the directive imposes on the Member States, is inadmissible on the ground that the relevant provisions of the directive do not create specific rights for individuals, since the question whether individuals may rely on the directive has no connection with such an action.
Directive 85/377 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, and in particular Article 12(1), must be interpreted as precluding a Member State which has transposed it into its national legal order after 3 July 1988, the time-limit for transposition, from waiving the obligations imposed by the directive in respect of a project consent procedure initiated after that time-limit. The sole criterion which may be used, since it accords with the principle of legal certainty and is designed to safeguard the effectiveness of the directive, to determine the date on which the procedure was initiated is the date when the application for consent was formally lodged, disregarding informal contacts and meetings between the competent authority and the developer.
Furthermore, paragraph 2 of Annex I to the directive, under which projects for thermal power stations with a heat output of 300 megawatts or more must undergo an assessment, must be interpreted as requiring such projects to be assessed irrespective of whether they are separate constructions, are added to a pre-existing construction or even have close functional links with a pre-existing construction. A project of such a type which has links with an existing construction cannot therefore be within the category of ‘Modifications to development projects included in Annex I’, mentioned in paragraph 12 of Annex II, for which only optional assessment is provided.
Finally, Article 2, which lays down an obligation, incumbent on the competent authority in each Member State for the approval of projects, to make certain projects subject to an assessment of their effects on the environment, Article 3, which prescribes the content of the assessment, listing the factors which must be taken into account in it while leaving the competent authority a certain discretion as to the appropriate way of carrying out the assessment in the light of each individual case, and Article 8, which requires the competent national authorities to take into consideration in the development consent procedure the information gathered in the course of the assessment, must be interpreted as unequivocally imposing, regardless of their details, on the national authorities responsible for granting consent an obligation to carry out an assessment of the effects of the projects concerned on the environment.


C-431/92, [1995] EUECJ C-431/92, [1996] 1 CMLR 196, [1995] ECR I-2189



Cited by:

CitedEdwards, Regina (on the application of) v Environment Agency HL 16-Apr-2008
The applicants sought to challenge the grant of a permit by the defendant to a company to operate a cement works, saying that the environmental impact assessment was inadequate.
Held: The Agency had been justified in allowing the application . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 03 June 2022; Ref: scu.161038