25 March, 2022
On March 25, the Department of Administrative Cases of the Senate upheld the judgment of the Administrative Regional Court, by which the applicant SIA "Sātiņi-S" was refused compensation for the restriction of economic activity - prohibition to grow cranberries in the bogs belonging to the applicant, which is a part of Natura 2000 area.
In the present case, there was a dispute whether a person who was restricted to cultivate cranberries in a bog located in Natura 2000 area was entitled to compensation for that restriction. The Rural Support Service refused to grant compensation to the applicant for the restriction of economic activity, as the laws and regulations do not provide for compensation for the prohibition to establish cranberry plantations in bogs.
During the examination of the case, the Senate had referred preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union, as it was established that the national laws and regulations provide for compensation only for Natura 2000 forest areas, excluding bogs, as well as only regarding forestry restrictions in these areas.
The Court of Justice of the European Union, in response to questions asked in this case, has recognized in principle that provisions of the 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 (Aid Regulation) cannot be interpreted as excluding bog lands as such from the scope of the Regulation, since that land may be covered by the term 'agricultural area' or 'forest'. At the same time, the European Court of Justice has recognized that the Regulation allows a member state to exclude bogs from Natura 2000 payments. The judgment also states that it follows from the Aid Regulation that the Fund operates in the member states through the member states' rural development programs approved by the European Commission.
The Senate acknowledges that it is clear from the Latvian Rural Development Program for 2014–2020 that the term ‘forest’ included therein should not be understood as including bogs. In addition, the Program also makes it clear that support is available if restrictions on economic activity are imposed in Natura 2000 sites or micro-reserves in forest land (excluding bogs).
Thus, the Regional Court has rightly relied on the provisions of the Latvian Rural Development Program for 2014–2020, where support payments are provided for specific restrictions on economic activities in forest lands that are not bogs.
The judgment. Case No SKA-14/2022 (A420186017)
Information prepared by Baiba Kataja, the Press Secretary of the Supreme Court
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