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- Charles Spurgeon

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03 februari 2020

EU uitspraak over hoorplicht (en de reden waarom ik die heb gelezen) - Sopropé

In een visazaak die ik behandel was een bijzondere beschikking geslagen die ik zat voor te lezen aan mijn studiegenote van 25 jaar geleden.
"Wacht eens", zei zij. "Heeft de IND informatie opgevraagd in het buitenland en jou die niet ter hand gesteld noch gevraagd of je client daar een reactie op wilde geven? Dat is in strijd met het beginsel van een eerlijk proces." Ja die 9 voor haar scriptie kreeg ze niet voor niets. Jammergenoeg voor juridisch Nederland is ze werkzaam op een heel ander vlak.

Vervolgens zag ik vandaag dat Ali Agayev een uitspraak uit de archieven van de EU had opgedoken die eigenlijk hier ook over gaat.

" Voorts stelt eiser zich op het standpunt dat verweerder de hoorplicht zoals bedoeld in artikel 7:2 van de Awb heeft geschonden door eiser en referenten niet te horen. Slechts in uitzonderlijke gevallen mag van de hoorplicht worden afgeweken. Nu het bezwaar van eiser is onderbouwd met documenten, kan niet worden gesteld dat het bezwaar kennelijk ongegrond is en dat derhalve mag worden afgeweken van horen. Dit is in strijd met het nationale recht en het Unierecht, zoals geformuleerd in het arrest Sopropé van het Hof van Justitie van de Europese Unie (HvJEU) van 18 december 2008, zaaknummer C-349/07, ECLI:EU:C:2008:746."

 The Court’s reply
33      Fundamental rights form an integral part of the general principles of law the observance of which the Court ensures. For that purpose, it draws inspiration from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States and from the guidelines supplied by international treaties for the protection of human rights on which the Member States have collaborated or to which they are signatories (see, inter alia, Case C‑274/99 P Connolly v Commission [2001] ECR I-1611, paragraph 37).
34      It also follows from the settled case-law of the Court that, where national legislation comes within the scope of Community law, the Court, when requested to give a preliminary ruling, must provide all the criteria of interpretation required by the national court to determine whether those rules are compatible with the fundamental rights the observance of which the Court ensures (see, inter alia, Case C‑260/89 ERT [1991] ECR I-2925, paragraph 42, and Case C-159/90 Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Ireland [1991] ECR I-4685, paragraph 31).
35      Since the questions referred for a preliminary ruling concern the procedures to be followed by national authorities when applying the Community Customs Code, the Court has jurisdiction to provide the national court with all the criteria of interpretation required by that court to determine whether the national rules at issue are compatible with the fundamental rights the observance of which the Court ensures.
36      Observance of the rights of the defence is a general principle of Community law which applies where the authorities are minded to adopt a measure which will adversely affect an individual.
37      In accordance with that principle, the addressees of decisions which significantly affect their interests must be placed in a position in which they can effectively make known their views as regards the information on which the authorities intend to base their decision. They must be given a sufficient period of time in which to do so (see, inter alia, Commission v Lisrestal and Others, paragraph 21, and Mediocurso v Commission, paragraph 36).
38      The authorities of the Member States are subject to that obligation when they take decisions which come within the scope of Community law, even though the Community legislation applicable does not expressly provide for such a procedural requirement. As regards the implementation of that principle and, in particular, the periods within which the rights of the defence must be exercised, it must be stated that, where those periods are not, as in the main proceedings, fixed by Community law, they are governed by national law on condition, first, that they are the same as those to which individuals or undertakings in comparable situations under national law are entitled and, secondly, that they do not make it impossible in practice or excessively difficult to exercise the rights of defence conferred by the Community legal order.
39      The national court raises two issues in connection with the principle of respect for the rights of the defence; first, it asks whether a period of 8 to 15 days as generally provided for by national law for a taxpayer to exercise his right to a hearing may be regarded as sufficient and, secondly, it asks whether, in the circumstances of the main proceedings, the period of 13 days which elapsed between the time when Sopropé was placed in a position in which it could submit its observations and the date of the decision to recover the duty satisfies the requirements of that principle.
40      As regards the first issue, it must be pointed out that it is normal and also appropriate for national legislation and regulations to establish, within the context of the numerous existing administrative procedures, general rules governing periods within which particular steps may or must be taken. The establishment of such rules also serves to promote the principle of equal treatment. In respect of national legislation which comes within the scope of Community law, it is for the Member States to establish those periods in the light of, inter alia, the significance for the parties concerned of the decisions to be taken, the complexities of the procedures and of the legislation to be applied, the number of persons who may be affected and any other public or private interests which must be taken into consideration.
41      As regards post-clearance recovery of customs import duties, a period within which a taxpayer may exercise his right to a hearing which cannot be less than 8 days or greater than 15 days does not, as a matter of principle, make it impossible in practice or excessively difficult to exercise the rights of defence conferred by the Community legal order. The undertakings which may be affected by the procedure at issue in the main proceedings are professionals which have recourse to importation on a regular basis. Furthermore, the applicable Community legislation provides that those undertakings must be able to furnish proof, for the purposes of inspection, of the lawfulness of all the transactions that they have effected. Lastly, the general interest of the European Community and, in particular, the interest in recovering its own revenue as soon as possible mean that inspections must be capable of being carried out promptly and effectively.
42      However, the appellant in the main proceedings stated before the national court that it had had a period of only 8 days to submit its observations and that the decision to recover the duty was taken only 13 days after it had been asked to submit its observations. That is why the national court is asking the Court of Justice to determine whether such periods are compatible with Community law.
43      Although the Court has no jurisdiction under Article 234 EC to apply a rule of Community law to a particular case and thus to judge a provision of national law by reference to such a rule, it may none the less, within the framework of the judicial cooperation provided for by that article and on the basis of the material presented to it, provide the national court with an interpretation of Community law which may be useful to it in assessing the effects of that provision (Case 20/87 Gauchard [1987] ECR 4879, paragraph 5; Joined Cases C-515/99, C‑519/99 to C-524/99 and C‑526/99 to C-540/99 Reisch and Others [2002] ECR I-2157, paragraph 22; and Case C-6/01 Anomar and Others [2003] ECR I-8621, paragraph 37).
44      In that regard, it must be pointed out that where national legislation or regulations, as is the case in the applicable legislation here at issue in the main proceedings, lays down within a specific time range the period for collecting the observations of the parties concerned, it is for the national court to satisfy itself that the period thus individually assigned by the authorities corresponds to the specific circumstances of the person or undertaking at issue and that it makes it possible for them to exercise their rights of defence in accordance with the principle of effectiveness. The national court must, in those circumstances, have due regard to the facts specific to the case. In the case of imports from Asian countries, factors such as the complexity of the transactions in question, the distance involved or even the quality of the relations normally maintained with the competent local authorities may thus be significant. Likewise, regard must be had to the size of the undertaking and to the question whether or not it normally maintains commercial relations with the country in question.
45      As regards inspections such as those at issue in the main proceedings, it must be pointed out that these constitute a whole. Thus, an inspection procedure carried out over a number of months, which includes on-the-spot checks and a hearing of the undertaking concerned, the declarations of which are placed on the file, may justify the assumption that that undertaking was aware of the reasons why the inspection procedure had been carried out and the nature of the facts alleged against it.
46      Such circumstances, which may make it possible to establish that the undertaking concerned was, in any event, given the opportunity to set out its views in the course of the inspection, must also be taken into consideration.
47      It is for the court before which the dispute in the main proceedings has been brought to examine whether, in the light of, inter alia, those various criteria, the period which was granted by the competent authorities within the time range provided for by the national legislation meets the Community-law requirements set out above.
48      The following points must be made with regard to the question of the possible effect on the decision under challenge in the main proceedings of the fact that it was taken 13 days after the company had been informed that it had a period of 8 days within which to submit its observations.
49      The purpose of the rule that the addressee of an adverse decision must be placed in a position to submit his observations before that decision is adopted is to enable the competent authority effectively to take into account all relevant information. In order to ensure that the person or undertaking concerned is in fact protected, the purpose of that rule is, inter alia, to enable them to correct an error or submit such information relating to their personal circumstances as will argue in favour of the adoption or non-adoption of the decision, or in favour of its having a specific content.
50      Accordingly, respect for the rights of the defence implies that, in order that the person entitled to those rights can be regarded as having been placed in a position in which he may effectively make known his views, the authorities must take note, with all requisite attention, of the observations made by the person or undertaking concerned.
51      It is for the national court alone to ascertain whether, having regard to the period which elapsed between the time when the authorities concerned received the observations and the date on which they took their decision, they can be held to have taken due account of the observations sent to them.
52      The answer to be given to the national court must therefore be that, with regard to recovery of a customs debt for the purpose of effecting post-clearance recovery of customs import duties, a period of 8 to 15 days allowed to an importer suspected of having committed a customs offence in which to submit its observations complies in principle with the requirements of Community law.
53      It is for the national court before which the case has been brought to ascertain, having regard to the specific circumstances of the case, whether the period actually allowed to that importer made it possible for it to be given a proper hearing by the customs authorities.
54      The national court must also ascertain whether, in the light of the period which elapsed between the time when the authorities concerned received the importer’s observations and the date on which they took their decision, they can be deemed to have taken due account of the observations sent to them."

Dus als mijn client in beroep wil (in visazaken is dat soms vanwege de kosten niet de keuze van de vreemdeling) dan ga ik voor het beroep dus leentjebuur spelen bij beide genoemde bronnen.

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