On 3 June, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court decided to suspend proceedings regarding application filed by a farm on abolishment of a decision of the Rural Support Service, by which the applicant is obliged to pay back received support. The Supreme Court, when reviewing the cassation complaint filed by the farm, recognised necessity to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union for preliminary ruling. The proceedings in the case are suspended, until the Court of Justice of the European Union will adopt a decision regarding preliminary question.   

Initially, the applicant indicated area of 10.20 ha of land for agricultural environment support, but she increased this initial area for 2.30 ha next year. Due to this increase the obligation was established anew for the term of five years. The applicant, misbelieving that obligations are fulfilled, when calculating five-year term from the moment of establishment of initial obligation, did not indicate the area to receive support in last year. Rural Support Service decided to claim back all support paid, because it recognised that obligations were not fulfilled all necessary period.  

It is not disputed in the case that all prerequisites for receipt of support to the area, which was indicated initially (10.20 ha) were fulfilled annually during five years. Namely, support applications were filed and farm was managed in accordance with standards, which are envisaged for receipt of respective support, annually during five years. Thus, in this five-year period the applicant actually was entitled to receive support payments for this initial area.  

Observing the fact that support allocated to the applicant in respect of area, which was initially indicated for the purpose of receipt of support, actually ensured fulfilment of goals included in legal provisions of the European Union, the Supreme Court doubts whether limitation of applicant’s rights, envisaging to refund financing received for the area, in respect to which all prerequisites to receive support were fulfilled in all five-year period, is proportionate in the particular case.

Observing mentioned considerations, the Supreme Court referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union with several preliminary questions: first, whether reclaim of support complies with goal of particular regulations and principle of proportionality; second, whether reclaim of support complies with Article 17 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (right to property) in connection with Article 52 of the Charter (principles of limitation of fundamental rights); third, whether obligation to observe proportionality in observation of fundamental rights included in Article 52 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights envisages an opportunity to recede from application of such legal consequences, which are stipulated as mandatory in the Regulation and domestic legal provisions adopted in accordance with the Regulation,  if there are particular specific circumstances, in context of which limitation is recognised as disproportionate; fourth, whether, observing goal of respective regulations and margins of appreciation provided for Member States in these regulations, it is admissible that national court, grounding on considerations of proportionality, does not apply domestic legal provisions adopted for the purpose of implementation of the Regulation.  

Information prepared by Baiba Kataja, the Press secretary of the Supreme Court
Telephone: 67020396; e-mail: baiba.kataja@at.gov.lv