Following the judgement by the European General Court that dismissed the appeal filed by Fruits de Ponent, in 2016, against the European Commission for the damage suffered during the stone fruit crisis of 2014, the Co-operative Group has put forward the following points:
1. Fruits de Ponent welcomes the General Court's recognition for the first time, thanks to the lawsuit brought by a group of agricultural partners, of the very serious crisis experienced by the entire sector in 2014.
During the 2014 season, the sweet fruit sector was severely affected, which led to a collapse in prices. The crisis was triggered by three factors.
2. It was an exceptional crisis and Fruits de Ponent decided that it was necessary to lodge an appeal to highlight the situation, that should not be repeated in the future.
To do so, it chose the only possible way before the European Union - to claim damages before the General Court of the Union.
The Group's initial intention was to include the maximum number of producers and organisations affected by the crisis in the appeal. However, this was not possible, and three cases were chosen to represent the situation that was experienced.
3. Although the European Commission has rejected their appeal, Fruits de Ponent appreciates the fact that the Court has proved the Cooperative Group right on rules that give rights to farmers affected by the crisis.
The judgement has confirmed that farmers affected by the crisis will be eligible to receive compensation.
4. Furthermore, Fruits de Ponent applauds the Court's recognition that there were rules obliging the European institutions, in the face of this type of crisis, to act in accordance with diligence and good administration.
5. Fruits de Ponent regrets, on the other hand, that the Court of the European Union limits the rights to compensation to a sufficiently serious breach.
In this respect, Fruits de Ponent has expressed concern over the fact that the General Court considers that there have not been sufficiently serious errors on the part of the Community administration in 2014 for producers to be eligible for compensation.
6. Fruits de Ponent respects the decisions of the Courts, but is analysing the judgement as well as the actions to be taken.
It understands that the judgement does not delve deep, and adequately acknowledges the seriousness of the errors committed in 2014.
7. Although Fruits de Ponent was not accompanied by other players in the sector when initiating legal action to draw attention to the problems that afflicted farmers because of the shortcomings of the current crisis management mechanism, it is convinced that this should not remain an isolated effort.
This must be a starting point for the sector to become aware that a joint effort is necessary to avoid living situations like the one in 2014.
The judgement is available on the website of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
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