On 17 October, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (SACL), sitting in a chamber of extended composition, has decided to request the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to provide a preliminary ruling in an administrative case concerning additional fishing quotas for 2015 in the Baltic Sea and their allocation.
The dispute in the case concerned a protocol of the Commission for allocation of fishing quotas in the Baltic Sea, and in particular its provision allocating additional fishing quotas for 2015 in the Baltic sea among certain economic entities. Applicants UAB Spika, UAB Senoji Baltija, UAB Stekutis ir UAB Prekybos namai ‘Aistra’ contended that the fishing quotas were allocated illegally, and that that part of the Commission protocol of 11 May 2015 should be annulled.
The SACL noted that, according to the current legislation in the Republic of Lithuania, entities that are already carrying out commercial fishing are provided the possibility to obtain fishing quotas after submitting historical indicators of catch, and entities that do not have historical indicators on catch or have small indicators, cannot be eligible for a larger part of quotas, except for cases when an entity having historical part transfers a part of its individual fishing opportunity. New entities can obtain a fishing quota essentially only by auction. Thus the possibilities for new entities or entities having small historical parts to obtain fishing quotas in the Baltic Sea are significantly restricted. In this context the SACL found that entities carrying out activities in this area cannot compete for a larger part of quotas on equal terms.
The SACL noted that the Law on Fisheries of the Republic of Lithuania implements 10 legal acts of the European Union, including Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy (hereinafter – the Regulation). The Regulation establishes discretion of a member state to decide on ways and methods of allocating fishing quotas. However, provisions of the Regulation also require to apply transparent and objective criteria in allocating quotas, and to provide conditions for economically viable and competitive fishing capture and processing industry and land-based fishing related activity. According to the SACL, in this case it is important to also take into account the requirements set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in particular its article 16, enshrining the freedom to conduct a business, and article 20, establishing the principle of equality before the law. In other words, the discretion of member states to decide on ways and methods of allocating fishing quotas is not unlimited, however, it is not clear whether provisions of the Regulation can be interpreted as prohibiting a method of allocating fishing quotas which leads to dissimilar conditions of competing for larger amount of fishing opportunities for entities carrying out activities in this area, even if this method is based on transparent and objective criteria.
According to the Court, given the questions on interpretation and application of EU law that arose in the proceedings, it was necessary to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union requesting to provide a preliminary ruling on the question whether Articles 17 and 2(5)(c) of the Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council Of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, read together with articles 16 and 20 of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union, should be interpreted in a way that when a member state is using the discretion established in article 16(6) of the Regulation 1380/2013, it is prohibited to choose a method of allocating fishing quotas which leads to dissimilar conditions of competing for a larger amount of fishing opportunities for entities carrying out activities in this area, even if this method is based on a transparent and objective criteria.
For more information see the website of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania www.lvat.lt Case No. A-2298-502/2016. Please indicate the source when using this content.