Global law firm White & Case LLP has achieved a significant victory, after the General Court of the European Union (General Court) annulled a 2008 European Commission ("Commission") decision against Greece's energy incumbent Public Power Corporation ("PPC"). The action was brought by PPC; White & Case LLP acted for the Greek government (the Hellenic Republic), an intervener in support of PPC.
"The judgment shows that there is after all a rule of law. The Commission must always rely on well-articulated legal grounds; it does not 'make' but only enforces the law", said White & Case local partner Assimakis Komninos. "The Commission had tried to rely here on a 'creative' reading of existing case law, but the Court was not impressed."
In 2008, the Commission adopted a decision finding that Greece had infringed Article 106 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union ("TFEU") in combination with Article 102, by maintaining rights giving the state-owned electricity PPC quasi-exclusive access to lignite, a form of soft brown coal used as a fuel for steam-electric power generation. According to that decision, PPC continued to enjoy a virtual monopoly over access to lignite and "Greece had protected PPC's dominant position in the electricity market". Further to that decision, in 2009, the Commission requested and accepted remedies from Greece to ensure access to Greek lignite deposits for PPC's competitors.
On September 20, 2012 the General Court annulled the 2008 decision and held that the Commission's theory was flawed because it had relied solely on whether there were State measures resulting in an "inequality of opportunities" between economic operators, thereby distorting competition. However, according to the Court, this was not enough. The Commission should have identified and established a specific abuse of a dominant position by PPC to which the State measure in question led, or could lead. By not doing so, the Commission had "ignored existing case law".
White & Case local partner Assimakis Komninos, who is based in Brussels, acted for the Greek government (Hellenic Republic) during the written proceedings before the Court.
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