In response to the sentence dictated today by the General European Court rejecting the appeal which Fruits de Ponent presented in 2016, against the European Commission, for the losses incurred during the stone fruit crisis of 2014, the Cooperative Group would like to express the following points:
1. Fruits de Ponent welcomes the fact that the General Court has recognized for the first time, and thanks to the lawsuits filed by a group of agricultural partners, the extremely serious crisis the entire sector experienced in 2014. In the 2014 season, the sweet fruit sector underwent disruptions which resulted in a price collapse. This crisis was triggered by a combination of three factors. (See section 12 and the following sections of the sentence.)
2. It was a totally exceptional crisis, in the face of which Fruits de Ponent decided it was necessary to file an appeal in order to shine a spotlight on a situation that should never happen again in the future. To do so, Fruits de Ponent took the only possible route before the European Union: claim damages before the General Court of the Union. The initial intention of the Group – and here it centred it efforts – was for the maximum number of producers and organizations harmed by the crisis to join the lawsuit. However, this was not possible and the Group opted to select, among its partners, three cases that were representative of the situation experienced.
3. Fruits de Ponent views in a positive light the fact that, even in the midst of the process, when the European Commission has rejected the existence of laws conferring rights on the farmers harmed by crises such as that experienced in 2014, the Court has sided with the Cooperative Group on this point. The Sentence concedes that there are indeed laws which grant a right to compensation to those farmers affected by the crisis (see sections 43 to 50 of the sentence).
4. Furthermore, Fruits de Ponent applauds the Court for recognizing the existence of laws which compel European institutions, in the face of this type of crisis, to act in accordance with the principle of diligence and good administration.
5. Fruits de Ponent laments, however, that the Court of the European Union limits the right of the affected parties to compensation to be only in the case of especially serious illegal conduct (that is, a sufficiently characterized violation). In this sense, Fruits de Ponent expresses its concern for the fact that the General Court considers that in 2014 there have not occurred errors, on the part of the Community administration, serious enough to warrant the right to compensation.
6. Fruits de Ponent respects the resolutions of the Courts, but it is analysing the sentence as well as which actions to pursue. It believes the sentence fails to delve deep and adequately recognize the seriousness of the errors committed in 2014.
7. Although Fruits de Ponent did not find itself accompanied when it initiated legal actions to call attention to the problems afflicted on farmers due to the deficiencies of the current crisis management mechanism, it is convinced that this should not remain an isolated effort. This should be a starting point that awakens the sector to the need for a joint effort and thereby avoid reliving situations like that of the year 2014.