EU Court Likens Slovakian Charge to Illegal Customs Duty

(CN) – The European Court of Justice scolded Slovakia on Thursday for imposing a charge on one of its own power companies to export electricity to other member states.

Slovakia adopted the scheme in 2008 following the cessation of two units at the Jaslovské Bohunice nuclear power plant. Though the charge is no longer applied, the Slovak company Korlea Invest, which is the legal successor to the company FENS, at the time faced a requirement to pay 6.8 million euros.

Asked to weigh in on the matter by a Slovakian district court, Europe’s highest legal authority ruled Thursday that the charge is equivalent to a customs duty, making it prohibited by the principle of the free movement of goods.

Though the ruling from Luxembourg is not available in English, a press release states “that the member states have undertaken to conduct a common commercial policy, the functioning of which would be compromised if they were authorized unilaterally to impose, on their exports, charges which have an equivalent effect to customs duties.”

Slovakia failed to sway the court “that, because there is an identical charge levied on electricity consumed in Slovakia, electricity generated in Slovakia and exported is treated in the same manner as that generated in Slovakia and consumed there,” as explained in the press release.

“Those two pecuniary charges – one paid by the exporter and the other by the final client – are not levied on electricity at the same marketing stage, as the charge at issue is in fact levied on that product because it crosses a border,” the press release continues.

Because the prohibition on customs duties and equivalent charges is an essential rule of EU law, the court emphasized that no member state can choose not to comply, “whether in regard to relations between member states or in regard to relations between member states and non-EU countries.

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