CASE LAW: Case C-327/91, French Republic v. Commission of the European Communities, August 9, 1994. External Relations, EC-US Agreement; Treaty-Making Power

1 Colum. J. Eur. L. 139 (1994)

Jan Vanhamme. Researcher, Institute for European Law, Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium.

On September 23, 1991, the Commission of the European Community and the Government of the United States entered into an agreement to coordinate and cooperate in the application of their competition laws. While the agreement did not require any changes in the competition laws of either the United States or the European Community,2 it did call for improved coordination in enforcement, through consultation, exchange of information and notification of measures, particularly in those circumstances where important interests of the US would be affected by the enforcement activities of the EC authorities, or vice versa.

The French government, supported by the governments of Spain and the Netherlands, brought an action in the Court of Justice for annulment of the act by which the Commission concluded the agreement. France argued that the Commission had competence only to negotiate the agreement, not to sign it. France further claimed that the agreement lacked a statement of reasons and contravened  both Community competition law  and the general Community law principle of legal certainty.

The Commission initially questioned the admissibility of the action, by suggesting that an international agreement may not be challenged in an action for annulment based on Article 173 of the Treaty. The Court easily dismissed this argument, remarking that any act of a Community institution that produces legal effects may be challenged by a Member State. The French action was accordingly deemed admissible.