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Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 20 March 1980. - Gebrüder Bagusat KG v Hauptzollamt Berlin-Packhof ; Einkaufsgesellschaft der Deutschen Konservenindustrie mbH v Hauptzollamt Hamburg-Waltershof and Hauptzollamt Bad Reichenhall. - References for a preliminary ruling: Bundesfinanzhof - Germany. - Common customs tariff, cherries put up in a mixture of water and alcohol. - Joined cases 87, 112 and 113/79.



European Court reports 1980 Page 01159

Greek special edition Page 00599



Summary

Parties

Subject of the case

Grounds

Decision on costs

Operative part

Keywords



1 . COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF - TARIFF HEADINGS - CLASSIFICATION OF GOODS - POWER OF THE COMMISSION TO MAKE REGULATIONS - SCOPE

( REGULATION NO 97/69 OF THE COUNCIL )

2 . COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF - TARIFF HEADINGS - FRUIT ' ' PROVISIONALLY PRESERVED . . . BUT UNSUITABLE IN THAT STATE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION ' ' WITHIN THE MEANING OF TARIFF HEADING 08.11 - CONCEPT - DEFINITION BY CONTRAST TO HEADING 20.06

3 . COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF - TARIFF HEADINGS - FRUIT ' ' PREPARED OR PRESERVED . . . CONTAINING ADDED SPIRIT ' ' WITHIN THE MEANING OF SUBHEADING 20.06 B I - CONCEPT - CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ALCOHOL - INCLUSION

( REGULATION NO 1709/74 OF THE COMMISSION )

Summary



1 . IN ITS REGULATION NO 97/69 ON MEASURES TO BE TAKEN FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE CUSTOMS TARIFF THE COUNCIL CONFERRED UPON THE COMMISSION , ACTING IN CO-OPERATION WITH THE CUSTOMS EXPERTS OF THE MEMBER STATES , A WIDE POWER OF DISCRETION IN DEFINING THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF TARIFF HEADINGS COMING INTO CONSIDERATION FOR CLASSIFICATION .

2 . IT FOLLOWS FROM THE WORDING OF HEADING 08.11 OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF THAT IT COVERS PROVISIONALLY PRESERVED FRUIT , PROVIDED , HOWEVER , THAT IN THAT STATE IT IS UNSUITABLE FOR CONSUMPTION .

IT FOLLOWS THAT FRUIT PROVISIONALLY PRESERVED CANNOT COME UNDER HEADING 08.11 IF IT APPEARS THAT THE PRESERVATION PROCESS USED HAS NOT RESULTED IN MAKING IT UNSUITABLE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION IN THAT STATE . WHETHER OR NOT THE GOODS AT ISSUE ARE TO UNDERGO SUBSEQUENT PROCESSING IS IRRELEVANT FOR THE PURPOSE OF DEFINING THE SCOPE OF HEADINGS 08.11 AND 20.06 .

3 . FRUIT PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ALCOHOL , WHICH IS NOT UNSUITABLE IN THAT STATE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION , MUST BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF .

THE VALIDITY OF REGULATION NO 1709/74 CANNOT BE AFFECTED INASMUCH AS IT MAKES PROVISION FOR SUCH A TARIFF CLASSIFICATION OF CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL AS FRUIT SUITABLE IN THAT STATE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION .

Parties



IN JOINED CASES 87 , 112 AND 113/79

REFERENCE TO THE COURT UNDER ARTICLE 177 OF THE EEC TREATY BY THE SEVENTH SENATE OF THE BUNDESFINANZHOF ( FEDERAL FINANCE COURT ) FOR A PRELIMINARY RULING IN THE ACTIONS PENDING BEFORE THAT COURT BETWEEN

GEBRUDER BAGUSAT KG , POSSENHOFEN

AND

HAUPTZOLLAMT BERLIN-PACKHOF ( 87/79 ),

EINKAUFSGESELLSCHAFT DER DEUTSCHEN KONSERVENINDUSTRIE MBH , BERLIN

AND

HAUPTZOLLAMT HAMBURG-WALTERSHOF ( 112/79 ),

EINKAUFSGESELLSCHAFT DER DEUTSCHEN KONSERVENINDUSTRIE MBH , BERLIN

AND

HAUPTZOLLAMT BAD REICHENHALL ( 113/79 )

Subject of the case



ON THE INTERPRETATION OF HEADING 08.11 AND SUBHEADING 20.06 B I OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF ,

Grounds



1 BY THREE SEPARATE ORDERS OF 24 APRIL AND 26 JUNE 1979 RECEIVED AT THE COURT ON 31 MAY AND 25 JULY 1979 , THE BUNDESFINANZHOF REFERRED QUESTIONS TO THE COURT UNDER ARTICLE 177 OF THE EEC TREATY FOR A PRELIMINARY RULING UPON THE INTERPRETATION OF SUBHEADING 20.06 B I OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF .

2 THESE QUESTIONS ARE REFERRED TO THE COURT IN THE CONTEXT OF THREE DISPUTES BETWEEN TWO UNDERTAKINGS , BAGUSAT KG ( CASE 87/79 ) AND EINKAUFSGESELLSCHAFT DER DEUTSCHEN KONSERVENINDUSTRIE MBH ( CASES 112 AND 113/79 ) AND THE GERMAN CUSTOMS ADMINISTRATION ON WHETHER CHERRIES IMMERSED IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ALCOHOL IN ORDER TO PRESERVE THEM PROVISIONALLY DURING TRANSPORT TO THE COMMUNITY AND UNTIL THE TIME THEY ARE USED , AFTER DRAINING , IN THE CHOCOLATE INDUSTRY IN THE COMMUNITY , ARE TO BE CLASSIFIED UNDER TARIFF SUBHEADING 20.06 B I .

3 THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF TARIFF SUBHEADING 20.06 B I HAS BEEN DEFINED BY REGULATION NO 1709/74 OF THE COMMISSION OF 2 JULY 1974 ( OFFICIAL JOURNAL NO L 80 , P . 15 ) THE FIRST ARTICLE OF WHICH PROVIDES THAT :

' ' CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL SHALL BE CLASSIFIED AS FRUIT SUITABLE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION IN THE FOLLOWING SUBHEADING OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF :

20.06 FRUIT OTHERWISE PREPARED OR PRESERVED , WHETHER OR NOT CONTAINING ADDED SUGAR OR SPIRIT :

B . OTHER :

I . CONTAINING ADDED SPIRIT ' '

ON THE BASIS OF THAT REGULATION THE CUSTOMS ADMINISTRATION HAD CLASSIFIED THE DISPUTED GOODS UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I .

4 THE MAIN ACTION IN CASE 87/79 HAS ALREADY BEEN THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF A JUDGMENT OF THE COURT UNDER ARTICLE 177 : THE JUDGMENT OF 11 NOVEMBER 1975 IN CASE 37/75 , BAGUSAT V HAUPTZOLLAMT BERLIN-PACKHOF , ( 1975 ) ECR 1339 , DELIVERED FOLLOWING A REQUEST FOR A PRELIMINARY RULING BY THE FINANZGERICHT ( FINANCE COURT ) BERLIN .

5 IN THAT JUDGMENT THE COURT HELD THAT REGULATION NO 1709/74 WAS VALID AND CONSEQUENTLY RULED THAT UNDER THAT REGULATION CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL MUST BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF .

6 FOLLOWING THAT JUDGMENT THE FINANZGERICHT BERLIN DISMISSED THE ACTION BROUGHT BY BAGUSAT AGAINST THE CLASSIFICATION DECISION OF THE CUSTOMS AUTHORITIES . BAGUSAT ARGUED BEFORE THE BUNDESFINANZHOF , TO WHICH IT HAD APPEALED ON A POINT OF LAW , THAT THE PRELIMINARY RULING DELIVERED BY THE COURT IN CASE 37/75 HAD NOT REMOVED ALL THE DOUBT ABOUT THE APPLICATION OF SUBHEADING 20.06 B I TO THE DISPUTED IMPORTS AND CONSEQUENTLY REQUESTED THAT A FRESH REQUEST FOR A PRELIMINARY RULING BE ADDRESSED TO THE COURT . THE BUNDESFINANZHOF SUBSEQUENTLY REFERRED TO THE COURT THE FOLLOWING QUESTION IN CASE 87/79 :

' ' MUST TARIFF SUBHEADING 20.06 B I OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF BE INTERPRETED AS MEANING THAT IT ALSO INCLUDES FRUIT WHICH HAS BEEN PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF ALCOHOL , FLAVOURING AND WATER CONTAINING 12% ALCOHOL BY WEIGHT , IN PROPORTION OF 70% FRUIT , 30% LIQUID , SO AS TO PRESERVE IT DURING TRANSPORTATION IN CASKS AND WHICH IS INTENDED FOR THE CHOCOLATE INDUSTRY?

' '

THE QUESTIONS REFERRED TO THE COURT BY THE BUNDESFINANZHOF IN CASES 112 AND 113/79 ARE SIMILAR TO THAT SUBMITTED IN CASE 87/79 EXCEPT THAT THE PROPORTIONS OF WATER AND ALCOHOL IN THE MIXTURE IN WHICH THE DISPUTED GOODS ARE PUT UP ARE DIFFERENT .

7 SINCE THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF SUBHEADING 20.06 B I , AS REGARDS THE FRUIT CONCERNED IN THE DISPUTES IN THE MAIN ACTIONS , HAS BEEN DEFINED BY REGULATION NO 1709/74 , THE QUESTIONS REFERRED TO THE COURT ARE REALLY ASKING WHETHER GOODS HAVING THE CHARACTERISTICS REFERRED TO BY THE COURT MAKING THE REFERENCE COME WITHIN THE SCOPE OF REGULATION NO 1709/74 AND , IF SO , WHETHER REGULATION NO 1709/74 IS VALID TO THE EXTENT TO WHICH IT CLASSIFIES SUCH GOODS UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I .

8 THE APPLICANTS IN THE MAIN ACTION CONTENDED THAT REGULATION NO 1709/74 WAS NOT MEANT TO COVER CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL WHOSE ALCOHOLIC STRENGTH IS BARELY SUFFICIENT TO ENSURE THEIR PROVISIONAL PRESERVATION . HOWEVER THAT INTERPRETATION CANNOT BE RECONCILED WITH THE GENERAL WORDS USED BY ARTICLE 1 OF REGULATION NO 1709/74 WHICH CLASSIFIES UNDER HEADING 20.06 B I ' ' CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL ' ' , WITHOUT MAKING ANY DISTINCTION AS TO THE ALCOHOLIC STRENGTH OF THE MIXTURE . FURTHERMORE IT FOLLOWS FROM THE STATEMENT OF THE GROUNDS ON WHICH THE REGULATION IS BASED AND IN PARTICULAR FROM THE THIRD AND SIXTH RECITALS IN THE PREAMBLE THERETO THAT THE AUTHORS INTENDED PRECISELY TO CLASSIFY UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I ' ' CHERRIES WHICH ARE PROVISIONALLY PRESERVED IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL FOR USE , INTER ALIA , IN THE MANUFACTURE OF CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS ' ' . IT THEREFORE FOLLOWS THAT GOODS HAVING THE CHARACTERISTICS REFERRED TO BY THE COURT MAKING THE REFERENCE MUST , BY VIRTUE OF ARTICLE 1 OF REGULATION NO 1709/74 , BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I .

9 THE QUESTION REMAINS WHETHER , AS THE APPELLANTS IN THE MAIN ACTIONS CONTEND , IN MAKING PROVISION FOR THIS CLASSIFICATION , REGULATION NO 1709/74 IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF AND IS THEREFORE INVALID .

10 IT SHOULD FIRST OF ALL BE CALLED TO MIND THAT IN ITS REGULATION NO 97/69 ON MEASURES TO BE TAKEN FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE CUSTOMS TARIFF ( OFFICIAL JOURNAL , ENGLISH SPECIAL EDITION , 1969 ( I ), P . 12 ) THE COUNCIL CONFERRED UPON THE COMMISSION , ACTING IN CO-OPERATION WITH THE CUSTOMS EXPERTS OF THE MEMBER STATES , A WIDE POWER OF DISCRETION IN DEFINING THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF TARIFF HEADINGS COMING INTO CONSIDERATION FOR CLASSIFICATION . THE QUESTION WHICH ARISES IS THEREFORE WHETHER REGULATION NO 1709/74 HAS EXCEEDED THE LIMITS IMPOSED BY THE TERMS OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF .

11 WHILST IT IS TRUE , AS THE APPELLANTS IN THE MAIN ACTIONS POINT OUT , THAT NOTE 1 ( A ) IN CHAPTER 20 OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF STATES THAT THE CHAPTER DOES NOT INCLUDE FRUIT PREPARED OR PRESERVED BY PROCESSES LISTED IN CHAPTER 8 , IT STILL FOLLOWS FROM THE WORDING OF HEADING 08.11 , THE ONLY HEADING IN THAT CHAPTER WHICH CAN COME INTO CONSIDERATION AS REGARDS THE CLASSIFICATION OF THE GOODS , THAT IT COVERS PROVISIONALLY PRESERVED FRUIT , PROVIDED , HOWEVER , THAT IN THAT STATE IT IS UNSUITABLE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION .

12 IT FOLLOWS THAT FRUIT PROVISIONALLY PRESERVED CANNOT COME UNDER HEADING 08.11 IF IT APPEARS THAT THE PRESERVATION PROCESS USED HAS NOT RESULTED IN MAKING IT UNSUITABLE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION IN THAT STATE . WHETHER OR NOT THE GOODS AT ISSUE ARE TO UNDERGO SUBSEQUENT PROCESSING IS IRRELEVANT FOR THE PURPOSES OF DEFINING THE SCOPE OF HEADINGS 08.11 AND 20.06 . IT FOLLOWS FROM THIS THAT FRUIT PRESERVED IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ALCOHOL MUST BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I IF IT IS NOT UNSUITABLE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION IN THAT STATE .

13 FOLLOWING THE ADVICE OF THE COMMITTEE ON COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF NOMENCLATURE , THE COMMISSION TOOK THE VIEW THAT CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL ARE NOT THEREBY RENDERED UNSUITABLE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION IN THAT STATE .

14 THE APPLICANTS IN THE MAIN ACTION HAVE NOT DISCLOSED ANY FACTOR ENABLING IT TO BE THOUGHT THAT THE CLASSIFICATION MADE BY THE COMMISSION IN REGULATION NO 1709/74 IS MANIFESTLY INCORRECT .

15 IN FACT , EVEN THOUGH , AS THE APPLICANTS IN THE MAIN ACTION MAINTAIN WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF EXPERTS ' REPORTS , THE GOODS AT ISSUE ARE NOT , IN THE VIEW OF CONSUMERS AT THE PRESENT TIME , CONSIDERED TO BE APPETIZING AND THOUGH IT IS NOT USUAL TO CONSUME THEM AS THEY ARE , THAT DOES NOT SIGNIFY THAT THEY ARE THEREBY UNSUITABLE FOR CONSUMPTION AS LONG AS THEY MAY BE CONSUMED IN THAT STATE WITHOUT RISK TO HEALTH . IT IS TRUE THAT THE APPLICANTS IN THE MAIN ACTIONS IN CASES 112 AND 113/79 ARGUED THAT THE DEGREE OF IMPURITY OF ALCOHOL IN WHICH THE GOODS THEY IMPORT ARE PUT UP IS HIGHER THAN THAT ACCEPTED BY GERMAN REGULATIONS ON THE SUBJECT ; BUT NONE OF THE APPLICANTS WENT AS FAR AS TO ARGUE THAT THE CONSUMPTION IN THAT STATE OF THE GOODS AT ISSUE , WHICH ARE INTENDED TO BE USED IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY , REPRESENTS A SPECIAL RISK TO HEALTH . BY PROVIDING THAT THE GOODS REFERRED TO BY THE THREE QUESTIONS OF THE BUNDESFINANZHOF COME UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I , THE COMMISSION HAS NOT THEREFORE MISINTERPRETED THE PROVISIONS OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF , HAVING PARTICULAR REGARD TO THE WORDING OF HEADING 08.11 IN THE DIFFERENT LANGUAGES .

16 THE REPLY TO THE QUESTIONS REFERRED TO THE COURT SHOULD THEREFORE BE THAT FRUIT PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ALCOHOL , WHICH IS NOT UNSUITABLE IN THAT STATE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION , MUST BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF . THE PROCEEDINGS IN THESE CASES HAVE DISCLOSED NO FACTOR OF SUCH A KIND AS TO AFFECT THE VALIDITY OF REGULATION NO 1709/74 OF THE COMMISSION , WHICH MAKES PROVISION FOR SUCH A TARIFF CLASSIFICATION OF CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL AS FRUIT SUITABLE IN THAT STATE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION .

Decision on costs



17 THE COSTS INCURRED BY THE COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES , WHICH HAS SUBMITTED OBSERVATIONS TO THE COURT , ARE NOT RECOVERABLE . AS THESE PROCEEDINGS ARE , IN SO FAR AS THE PARTIES TO THE MAIN ACTION ARE CONCERNED , IN THE NATURE OF A STEP IN THE ACTION PENDING BEFORE THE NATIONAL COURT , THE DECISION ON COSTS IS A MATTER FOR THAT COURT .

Operative part



ON THOSE GROUNDS ,

THE COURT ( THIRD CHAMBER ),

IN ANSWER TO THE QUESTIONS REFERRED TO IT BY THE BUNDESFINANZHOF BY SEPARATE ORDERS OF 24 APRIL AND 26 JUNE 1979 , HEREBY RULES :

FRUIT PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ALCOHOL , WHICH IS NOT UNSUITABLE IN THAT STATE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION , MUST BE CLASSIFIED UNDER SUBHEADING 20.06 B I OF THE COMMON CUSTOMS TARIFF THE PROCEEDINGS IN THESE CASES HAVE DISCLOSED NO FACTOR OF SUCH A KIND AS TO AFFECT THE VALIDITY OF REGULATION NO 1709/74 OF THE COMMISSION , WHICH MAKES PROVISION FOR SUCH A TARIFF CLASSIFICATION OF CHERRIES PUT UP IN A MIXTURE OF WATER AND ETHYL ALCOHOL AS FRUIT SUITABLE IN THAT STATE FOR IMMEDIATE CONSUMPTION .