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Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 15 January

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Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 15 January

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2013 (request for a preliminary ruling from the Najvyšší

súd Slovenskej republiky — Slovakia) — Jozef Križan and

Others v Slovenská inšpekcia životného prostredia

(Case C-416/10) (1)

(Article 267 TFEU — Annulment of a judicial decision —

Referral back to the court concerned — Obligation to comply

with the annulment decision — Request for a preliminary

ruling — Whether possible — Environment — Aarhus

Convention — Directive 85/337/EEC — Directive 96/61/EC

— Public participation in the decision-making process —

Construction of a landfill site — Application for a permit

— Trade secrets — Non-communication of a document to

the public — Effect on the validity of the decision authorising

the landfill site — Rectification — Assessment of the envi­

ronmental impact of the project — Final opinion prior to

accession of the Member State to the European Union —

Application in time of Directive 85/337 — Effective legal

remedy — Interim measures — Suspension of implementation

— Annulment of the contested decision — Right to property

— Interference)

(2013/C 63/02)

Language of the case: Slovak

Referring court

Najvyšší súd Slovenskej republiky

Re:

Request for a preliminary ruling — Najvyšší súd Slovenskej

republiky — Interpretation of Articles 191(1) and (2) TFEU

and 267 TFEU, Council Directive 96/61/EC of 24 September

1996 concerning integrated pollution prevention and control

(OJ 1996 L 257, p. 26), in particular Articles 1, 6, 15 and

15a, Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the

assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects

on the environment (OJ 1985 L 175, p. 40), in particular

Articles 2 and 10a, and Articles 6 and 9 of the (Aarhus)

Convention on access to information, public participation in

decision-making and access to justice in environmental

matters, concluded on behalf of the European Community by

Council Decision of 17 February 2005 (OJ 2005 L 124, p. 1)

— Establishment of a landfill site — Assessment of the envi­

ronmental effects of the project — Public participation in the

decision-making process — Possibility for a court of a Member

State to make a reference to the Court of Justice for a

preliminary ruling on the application, of its own motion, of

European Union law on the protection of the environment,

even if the Constitutional Court of that State has excluded

such application by a decision binding on the referring court.

Operative part of the judgment

1. Article 267 TFEU must be interpreted as meaning that a national

court, such as the referring court, is obliged to make, of its own

motion, a request for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of

the European Union even though it is ruling on a referral back to

it after its first decision was set aside by the constitutional court of

the Member State concerned and even though a national rule

obliges it to resolve the dispute by following the legal opinion

of that latter court.

2. Council Directive 96/61/EC of 24 September 1996 concerning

integrated pollution prevention and control, as amended by Regu­

lation (EC) No 166/2006 of the European Parliament and of the

Council of 18 January 2006, must be interpreted as meaning that

it:

— requires that the public concerned have access to an urban

planning decision, such as that at issue in the main

proceedings, from the beginning of the authorisation

procedure for the installation concerned,

— does not allow the competent national authorities to refuse the

public concerned access to such a decision by relying on the

protection of the confidentiality of commercial or industrial

information where such confidentiality is provided for by

national or European Union law to protect a legitimate

economic interest, and

— does not preclude the possibility of rectifying, during the

administrative procedure at second instance, an unjustified

refusal to make available to the public concerned an urban

planning decision, such as that at issue in the main

proceedings, during the administrative procedure at first

instance, provided that all options and solutions remain

possible and that regularisation at that stage of the

procedure still allows that public effectively to influence the

outcome of the decision-making process, this being a matter

for the national court to determine.

3. Article 15a of Directive 96/61, as amended by Regulation No

166/2006, must be interpreted as meaning that members of the

public concerned must be able, in the context of the action

provided for by that provision, to ask the court or competent

independent and impartial body established by law to order

interim measures such as temporarily to suspend the application

of a permit, within the meaning of Article 4 of that directive,

pending the final decision.

4. A decision of a national court, taken in the context of national

proceedings implementing the obligations resulting from Article

15a of Directive 96/61, as amended by Regulation No

166/2006, and from Article 9(2) and (4) of the Convention

on access to information, public participation in decision-making

and access to justice in environmental matters, signed in Aarhus

on 25 June 1998 and approved on behalf of the European

Community by Council Decision 2005/370/EC of 17 February

2005, which annuls a permit granted in infringement of the

provisions of that directive is not capable, in itself, of constituting

an unjustified interference with the developer’s right to property

enshrined in Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of

the European Union.

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