In 2006 Alfa Vita Vassilopoulos AE and Carrefour-Marinopoulos AE (‘Alfa Vita’) made references for a preliminary ruling concerning the compatibility of Greek legislative provisions with Article 34 TFEU (‘Article 34’). This was in reference to Presidential Decree No 25.8 which states the procedure for obtaining a bakery operating license and equipment conditions which must be fulfilled. More specifically, Article 65 affirms the issuing of a license is conditional on there being kneading areas and a flour store. In 2001, the release of Bulletin No F 15(F17.1)/4430/183 clarified that ovens used for ‘bake-off’ goods constituted a part of the bread manufacturing process; a license was thus required to operate them. Pursuant to this, the Prefectural Authority of Ioannina ordered the closure of bread ovens in supermarkets Alfa Vita and Carrefour because they were not in possession of such a license.
The two applicants brought an action for annulment before the national court. They submit that the Greek national legislation was equivalent to a quantitative restriction on imports, contrary to Article 34’s prohibition and could not be justified on the grounds laid out in Article 36 TFEU (‘Article 36’). Contrariwise, the Prefectural Authority and Greek government argued the national legislation merely regulated the manner in which ‘bake-off’ products may be sold. This would render it a ‘selling arrangement’, falling outside the scope of Article 34. It was the failure to fulfil obligations under Article 258 TFEU which gave rise to the court proceedings in question. The Prefectural Authority of Ioannina referred a question to the European Court of Justice (‘ECJ’) on whether the obligation to obtain a license, to market ‘bake-off’ products was a quantitative restriction under Article 34. The Court would interpret this provision using the following qualifications; ‘quantitative restrictions’ being measures that restrain imports1 and ‘measures having equivalent effect’ being rules which are capable of hindering Inter-State trade2. Further to this, clarity was requested on whether the license requirement constituted a ‘product rule’, placing it within Article 34, or a ‘selling arrangement’, placing it outside its scope. Product rules are categorised as those which relate to the good and its production, whereas selling arrangements are rules related to the marketing of goods. Another question raised in this case was whether the requirement for a license sought to pursue a qualitative objective. This concerned the ability of the national legislation to go beyond the margins of Article 34, if it could be justified within the grounds listed in Article 36 TFEU (‘Article 36’). Protection of consumers, public health and the maintenance of quality in products are all legal justifications covered for interfering with the free movement of goods.
1 Case 2-73 Riseria Luigi Geddo v Ente Nazionale Risi ECLI:EU:C:1973:89 (paragraph 7)
2 Case 8-74 Procureur du Roi v Benoît and Gustave Dassonville ECLI:EU:C:1974:82 (paragraph 1)