On June 3 and 4, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate suspended the proceedings in two cases of the applicant SIA "Sātiņi-S" regarding compensation payments in Natura 2000 sites and decided to refer preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The case No SKA-238/2020 contains a dispute regarding compensation payments for restrictions on carrying out economic activities in a protected natural area of European interest, namely, Natura 2000.

The Rural Support Service refused to grant compensation to the applicant for the restriction of economic activity, namely, for prohibition to grow cranberries in the bogs belonging to the applicant, which belong to the Natura 2000 site, because laws and provisions do not provide for compensation for the prohibition to establish cranberry plantations in bogs.

The Senate established that the state laws and provisions provide for compensation only for Natura 2000 forest territories, excluding bogs, as well as compensation is provided only for the forestry restrictions specified in these territories.

 

Having regard to the compensatory objective of the payment for Natura 2000 site  resulting from Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005, as well as to the right to property specified in Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the Senate had doubts about the compatibility of the provisions contained in Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers of April 7, 2015, No 171 “Regulations on the Granting, Administration and Monitoring of State and European Union Support for the Improvement of the Environment, Climate and Rural Landscape in the 2014–2020 Planning Period” with the legal provisions of the European Union. Namely, the Senate doubts whether a Member State is entitled to establish such a regulation, which completely excludes bog lands belonging to these territories from receiving support, as well as to restrict the receiving of support by providing that it is granted only for a certain type of economic activity.

 

The case No SKA-587/2020 addresses the issue of whether compensation for significant damage to aquaculture in Natura 2000 sites caused by specially protected unhunted and migratory species is subject to de minimis (aid that may not be agreed with the Commission) restrictions.

The applicant applied to the Nature Conservation Agency for compensation for the damage caused to aquaculture in the property owned by the applicant (fish ponds). The Nature Conservation Agency calculated the loss in the amount of 87,428.50 euros. However, the Agency refused to grant compensation because the applicant had already received the maximum de minimis aid provided for in Commission Regulation (EU) No 717/2014 of 27 June 2014 on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union applicable to the fisheries and aquaculture sector, in the amount of 30,000 euros for the period of three fiscal years.

The Senate has decided to refer preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union on whether compensation for damage to aquaculture in a Natura 2000 site under Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds can be considered a State aid and whether such compensation is subject to the de minimis limitation set out in Regulation No 717/2014, as well as whether such compensation may be significantly lower than the actual damage.

 

Whereas, on June 2, the Senate suspended the proceedings in the case No SKA-466/2020 and decided to refer preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union to find out within what time limit the customs service may file a claim against customs guarantor requesting payment of the customs debt which the guarantor has guaranteed.

The applicant – insurance joint stock company “BTA Baltic Insurance Company” (before the reorganization – insurance joint stock company “InterRisk Vienna Insurance Group”)  provided a general guarantee to SIA “H9L”, for which a general guarantee policy was drawn up, which was in force from April 2012 to April 2013. When in February 2013, the State Revenue Service found that the goods handed over to customs control were not located in the warehouse of “H9L”, it calculated the customs debt. Recovery of the customs debt from “H9L” was initiated, but recovery was unsuccessful. In May 2017, the State Revenue Service filed a claim for a customs debt with the applicant as a guarantor.

The applicant does not agree with the recovery of the customs debt, considering that the action against the guarantor takes place disproportionately long period of time after the applicant has assumed the guarantee obligations. The Regional Administrative Court rejected the claim and the applicant lodged an appeal in cassation against the court’s judgment.

The Senate considered that the case required the interpretation of the provisions of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the Community Customs Code. The Court of Justice of the European Union has emphasized that Article 221 (3) of the Customs Code provides for a period after the expiry of which the debtor may no longer be notified of a customs debt. The Senate therefore asks whether this period of time also applies to the guarantor. In the event of a negative answer, the Senate requests to clarify whether the guarantor should be subject to the legal provisions of the Member State (as well as to time limits) governing the enforcement of decisions. Finally, if the answer to the second question is negative, the Senate asks for clarification as to whether the guarantor is subject to the requirement of observance of a reasonable limitation period arising from the principle of legal certainty.

 

Proceedings in the cases have been suspended until the Court of Justice of the European Union decides on the issues raised by the Senate.

 

Information prepared by

Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 28652211