ClientEarth and Collectif Nourrir v. European Commission

No description
July 17, 2023
Not judged
European Union, Luxembourg

Environmental NGOs
ClientEarth, Collectif Nourrir
European Commission
Lara Fornabaio (ClientEarth)

EU court
Review of the European Commission's approval of France's CAP 2023-2027 strategic plan
European Court of Justice of Luxembourg, European Union
No description

On July 17, 2023, ClientEarth, a british NGO and the Collectif Nourrir filed a complaint with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) against the European Commission for having approved the French national strategic plan (NSP), adopted as part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), even though the objectives set by the latter for 2027 are not sufficiently protective of the environment and do not respect the requirement for a more ambitious environmental policy.

However, as the applicant NGOs point out, the European law applicable in this case requires that the NSPs, the legal instruments for implementing the CAP at national level, enable a high level of environmental protection. Articles 5, 6 and 7 of EU’s SNP regulation state that the general objectives of the CAP are to: "support and strengthen environmental protection, including biodiversity, and climate action, and contribute to the achievement of the EU’s environmental and climate objectives, in particular its commitments under the Paris Agreement". Member States' agricultural policies must therefore aim to "promote sustainable development and the efficient management of natural resources such as water, soil and air, in particular by reducing dependence on chemical products".

In a letter dated March 31 2022, the European Commission had also noted the lack of environmental ambition in the French NSP, which was deemed only “partially compatible” with the objectives of ecological transition. In particular, the Commission had noted that the French objectives of reducing by half the use of pesticides by 2025 were insufficient, and that France needed to “clarifiy in the plan the objectives for reducing the use of pesticides (in particular the most dangerous ones)”, according to the European executive body.

This echoes the demands made by the associations, who point out in particular that the financial aid granted for measures to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers is insufficient and does not really encourage the transition to organic farming.

Despite the identification of a large number of flaws in the French PSN, the Commission still issued an approval decision in 2022. The applicant associations then filed a request for reconsideration of the decision, which was rejected in May 2023. The Commission's reasons for refusal was notably that it has only limited power to assess NHPs, as EU countries have the discretionary power to allocate their CAP subsidies. For ClientEarth, the Commission's refusal to reassess France's NSP is a violation of its legal obligation to enforce its own laws and ensure that taxpayers' money is indeed used to achieve the climate and environmental objectives set out in the CAP.

A hearing could be held by the end of 2024, for a ruling in 2025.