Spanish Petrol Stations Association wins favorable EU General Court decision
The EU General Court on January 24, 2014 issued an inadmissibility order in an appeal brought by the Confederación de Cooperativas Agrarias de España (CCAE) against the European Commission’s (EC) decision declaring that certain measures did not involve State aid. Jones Day has represented the Spanish Association of Petrol Stations (AEESCAM) in this case for almost fourteen years.
The case began in November 2000 when Jones Day filed a complaint on behalf of AEESCAM before the EC opposing the Spanish measures that allowed agricultural cooperatives to distribute diesel fuel to both members and non-members in unlimited quantities and without losing preferential tax treatment. Prior to the implementation of these measures, cooperatives were allowed to distribute to non-members only up to 50% of the quantity of diesel distributed to members in order to preserve the preferential tax treatment.
In December 2002, after the EC concluded that these measures did not constitute State aid, AEESCAM brought an action before the EU General Court, which in December 2006 annulled the initial EC decision as being unfounded. In December 2009, a second EC decision supported AEESCAM’s position and required the Spanish government to recover the aid granted during the years in which the support measures were in place. The CCAE then brought an action before the General Court seeking to annul the second decision.
In its latest ruling the General Court has declared CCAE’s action inadmissible on the grounds that it lacks both locus standi and interest. The General Court states that CCAE has not been able to demonstrate that any of its members were beneficiaries of the tax advantage under scrutiny. It also states that, even if a tax advantage could be demonstrated, the Spanish government did not seek recovery of the aid. This allowed the General Court to close the case without analyzing the substance of the matter, which is complex: the compatibility of farmer cooperatives’ tax benefits with the State aid rules.