The EU General Court has delivered judgment in Case T-715/14 NK Rosneft a.o. v. Council ELCI:EU:T:2018:544 and Joined Cases T-735/14 & T-799/14 Gazprom Neft v. Council ELCI:EU:T:2018:548 in which the Russian energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom sought the annulment of EU sanctions targeted at the Russian oil sector in the light of Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine.
The sanctions are contained within Council Decision 2014/521/CFSP as amended and Council Regulation (EU) 833/2014 as amended. The grounds on which Rosneft and Gazprom contended they were unlawful included:
- A failure to comply with the duty to give reasons under Article 296 TFEU;
- Lack of a legitimate aim and/or lack of a rational connection with the stated aim;
- Breach of the EU-Russia Partnership and Co-Operation Agreement and/or the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and
- Disproportionate interference with the applicant’s rights under Article 16 (right to conduct a legitimate business) and Article 17 (right to property) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Court rejected all the grounds of challenge. It also rejected the Council’s contention that the applicants lacked standing to challenge the measures under Articles 263 and 275 TFEU.
Charles Banner appeared as sole counsel for the United Kingdom (who supported the Council’s defence of the actions) at the hearings of both cases, instructed by the Government Legal Department.