Advocate General Opinion in Belgium v Commissioncase C-16/16 P 16/16 P believes that Belgium’s request for annulment should be admissible

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European LegalFlash

Today, 12 December 2017, the Opinion of Advocate General M. Bobek in Belgium v Commission came out (C-16/16 P).

On 14 July 2014, the European Commission has adopted Recommendation 2014/478/EU on principles for the protection of consumers and players of online gambling services and for the prevention of minors from gambling online. On 13 October 2014, the Kingdom of Belgium lodged an application for the annulment of the Recommendation in question before the General Court. The General Court dismissed the action of annulment against this Recommendation by order of 27 October 2015 on grounds of inadmissibility (T-721/14). According to the General Court, “in the light of the wording, content and context of the contested recommendation, the recommendation does not have and is not intended to have binding legal effects with the result that it cannot be classified as a challengeable act for the purposes of Article 263 TFEU”.

The Kingdom of Belgium appealed against that decision to the Court of Justice. The case was heard in Grand Chamber by the Court on 26 June 2017.

In AG Bobek’s view, the third ground of appeal raised by the Kingdom of Belgium is well-founded. By this ground of appeal, the Kingdom of Belgium claims that the General Court erred in its assessment of the absence of legal effects of the contested Recommendation. Moreover, the AG holds that “the General Court erred in law: it the General Court erred in law: it incorrectly interpreted the effects of the Recommendation at issue, and thus it incorrectly assessed the admissibility of the application” .

According to AG Bobek, the Court is, at this stage of the proceedings, not in a position to give judgment on the substance of the action brought before the General Court. The Court however has all the necessary material before it to be able to give a ruling rejecting the preliminary plea of inadmissibility raised by the Commission at first instance.

The AG therefore proposes that the Court sets aside the order of the General Court in case T-721/14 and finds admissible the Kingdom of Belgium’s action for annulment in that case. Consequently to refer the case back to the General Court for a decision on the merits.

Where the Court usually follows the opinions given by the Advocate-General, it must be borne in mind that the Opinion of the Advocate-General is not binding in itself. There is no date pronounced yet for the judgment of the Court in this case. Usually it takes around 6 months after the AG Opinion for the Court to decide.

Editor

Philippe Vlaemminck

Lawyer, Belgium

The European Lotteries Association

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