7 Colum. J. Eur. L. 127 (2001)
Marlies Desomer. Assistant, Institute for European Law, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Procedure: Application for leave to submit observations in response to the Opinion of the Advocate General; Fundamental rights
On December 19, 1997, the President of the Arrondissementsrechtbank in ‘s- Gravenhage (District Court, The Hague) referred twelve questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 177 (now Article 234) of the Treaty Establishing the European Communities (TEC) on, inter alia, the validity of Council Decision 97/803/EC of November 24, 1997, amending Council Decision 91/482/EEC on the association of the overseas countries and territories with the European Economic Community (EEC).
Those questions were raised in proceedings between the undertaking Emesa Sugar (Free Zone) NV (“Emesa”) and the Government of Aruba concerning the conditions for importation into the Community of quantities of sugar which Emesa processes and packs in the Caribbean Island. Aruba is among the overseas countries and territories (OCTs) with whom the Community has wholly established close economic relations, in a view “to further the interests and prosperity of the inhabitants of these countries and territories in order to lead them to the economic, social and cultural development to which they aspire” (Article 182 (ex Art. 131), para. 3 TEC). Article 184(1) (ex Art. 133) TEC provides that, in order to pursue that objective, customs duties on imports of goods originating from the OCTs into the Member States are to be completely abolished in conformity with the progressive abolition of customs duties between EU Member States. Thereafter, several decisions relating to the association of OCTs with the EEC were adopted by the Council; among others, Council Decision 91/482/EEC on the association of the overseas countries and territories with the EEC. This Decision was modified in a way which was less favorable for the OCTs by Council Decision 97/803/EC of November 24, 1997. Quantitative import restrictions on sugar that has undergone working or processing in the OCTs were reintroduced, which was justified by the argument that free access for these products and similar favorable measures had given rise to the risk of conflict between two Community policy objectives, namely, the development of the OCTs and the common agricultural policy. Subsequently, Emesa sought an interim order from the President of the Arrondissementsrechtbank in ‘s-Gravenhage vis-à-vis the Government of Aruba, allowing Emesa to continue importing sugar into the Community. In those circumstances, the President stayed proceedings and referred ten questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling on the validity of Council Decision 97/803/EC, and two questions on whether interim measures vis-à-vis a non-Community authority can be ordered by a national court in cases where the infringement of Community law is imminent.