Hartmann v Council and Commission: ECFI 16 Apr 1997

1 Agriculture – Common organization of the markets – Milk and milk products – Additional levy on milk – Allocation of reference quantities exempt from levy – Producers who suspended deliveries pursuant to the non-marketing or conversion premium schemes and were therefore refused a reference quantity – Offer of flat-rate compensation under Regulation No 2187/93 – Producer bringing an action for damages embodying conditional acceptance of the offer – Producer to be regarded as having refused the offer
(EC Treaty, Art. 215; Council Regulation No 2187/93, Arts 8(2) and 14)
2 Actions for damages – Limitation period – Starting point – Liability on account of Regulation No 857/84 resulting in a reference quantity not being allocated to milk producers who entered into a non-marketing undertaking – Date to be taken into consideration
(EC Treaty, Arts 178 and 215; EEC Statute of the Court of Justice, Art. 43; Council Regulations Nos 1078/77 and 857/84)
3 Regulation No 2187/93 providing for an offer of flat-rate compensation to producers of milk or milk products who entered into a non-marketing undertaking and were temporarily prevented from carrying on their trade on account of the subsequent failure to allocate them a reference quantity contains precise provisions relating to acceptance of the offer of compensation. More specifically, Article 14 provides that acceptance of the offer is signified by return to the competent national authority, within two months of receipt of the offer, of the receipt accompanying the offer.
A producer who brings an action for damages in the Court of First Instance in which he states that he agrees to the offer, except as regards application of the limitation period laid down by Article 8(2) of the regulation, cannot be regarded as having accepted the offer made to him. On the one hand, acceptance cannot be signified in a form not provided for by the regulation and, on the other, it is clear from the wording of the regulation and from the nature of the offer as an offer in settlement that it can only be accepted unconditionally.
4 The limitation period laid down by Article 43 of the Statute of the Court of Justice for actions brought against the Community on grounds of non-contractual liability cannot begin before all the requirements governing the obligation to make good the damage are satisfied and, in particular, in cases where liability stems from a legislative measure, before the injurious effects of the measure have been produced. Those conditions consist of the existence of unlawful conduct on the part of the Community institutions, the fact of the damage alleged and the existence of a causal link between that damage and the loss claimed.
In contrast, a declaration that the measure in question is invalid is not one of those requirements. As regards damage sustained by producers of milk or milk products who, as a result of non-marketing or conversion undertakings entered into pursuant to Regulation No 1078/77, were unable to be allocated a reference quantity in view of Regulation No 857/84 and hence to market any milk exempt from additional levy, time under the limitation period started to run on the date when Regulation No 857/84 began to have injurious effects on the producers concerned by preventing them from resuming marketing milk. Since, moreover, the damage was not caused instantaneously but recurred on a daily basis, with respect to the date of the event which interrupted the limitation period, the time bar under Article 43 of the Statute of the Court of Justice applies to the period preceding that date by more than five years and does not affect rights which arose during subsequent periods.

Judges:

A Saggio, P

Citations:

T-20/94, [1997] EUECJ T-20/94

Links:

Bailii

European, Agriculture

Updated: 06 June 2022; Ref: scu.172786