EU Court declares data publication of CAP beneficiaries partially illegal

The European Court of Justice has ruled on the cases presented by two German applicants who were granted aids from CAP funding and whose data where published in the German public site. Tribunal puts into balance the right for public disclosure of data related to public spending at the right for data protection, and concludes by declaring invalid certain provisions of Regulation Nº 1290/2005 and the entire Regulation Nº 259/2008.

The Cases brought to the European Court of Justice address the balance between the right for taxpayers to know where public funds are spent and the right for citizens for their personal data to be protected. The origin of the case lies on the legal actions brought by two German nationals (one firm and one full time farmer) who were awarded grants from the PAC and whose data were therefore subsequently published on the website of the Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE) ( Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food, Germany).

It its reasoning, the Court notes, first, that the right to respect for private life with regard to the processing of personal data, which is recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, concerns any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual and, second, that the limitations which may lawfully be imposed on the right to the protection of personal data correspond to those which are tolerated under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

After analysing all the elements at stake, the Court concludes that, by imposing an obligation to publish personal data relating to each natural person who was a beneficiary of aid under the EAGF and the EAFRD without drawing a distinction based on relevant criteria such as the periods during which those persons received such aid, the frequency of such aid or the nature and amount thereof, the Council and the Commission exceeded the limits imposed by compliance with the principle of proportionality. To that extent, the Court rules on Cases C-92/09 and C-93/09 that it is thus necessary to declare invalid certain provisions of Regulation Nº 1290/2005 and to declare Regulation Nº 259/2008 invalid in its entirety.

Given that a large number of publications have taken place in the Member States on the basis of rules which were regarded as being valid, the Court has accepted that the invalidity of those provisions which has thus been established cannot allow any action to be brought to challenge the effects of the publication of the lists of beneficiaries of EAGF and EAFRD aid carried out by the national authorities during the period prior to the date on which the judgement.