Official Journal of the European Union

C 151/22

Action brought on 10 March 2017 — European Commission v Republic of Poland

(Case C-127/17)

(2017/C 151/30)

Language of the case: Polish


Applicant: European Commission (represented by: J. Hottiaux and W. Mölls, acting as Agents)

Defendant: Republic of Poland

Form of order sought

The applicant claims that the Court should:

declare that, by imposing on transport companies a requirement to possess special permits in order to use certain public roads, the Republic of Poland has failed to fulfil its obligations under Articles 3 and 7 of Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic, (1) in conjunction with points 3.1 and 3.4 of Annex I to that directive;

order the Republic of Poland to pay the costs.

Pleas in law and main arguments

The Commission criticises the Republic of Poland on the ground that the circulation of vehicles complying with the maximum authorised axle weight, established at 10 tonnes (non-driving axle) and at 11.5 tonnes (driving axle) in points 3.1 and 3.4 respectively of Annex I to Directive 96/53/EC, is restricted on nearly 97 % of public roads situated in the territory of Poland, which is contrary to Article 3 of that directive. That restriction results from a combination of the following two factors:


the circulation of vehicles with a maximum authorised axle weight of 11.5 tonnes is possible only on roads which form part of the trans-European network (TEN-T) and certain other national roads (Article 41(2) of the Law on Public Roads); and


there is a requirement to possess a special permit allowing circulation on other roads (Article 64 et seq. of the Law on Road Traffic).

The Commission also criticises the Republic of Poland on the ground that it misinterpreted Article 7 of Directive 96/53/EC. According to the Republic of Poland’s assessment, that provision allows a Member State to derogate from the general principle laid down in Article 3 of that directive by restricting the circulation of vehicles with a driving axle weight amounting to 11.5 tonnes. While it is true that specific examples are given in the second paragraph of Article 7 of places where the use of vehicles may lawfully be restricted (cities, small villages or places of special natural interest), that provision relates only to restrictions imposed on certain roads or on engineering structures on specified sections of road. According to the Commission, a Member State cannot reasonably rely on the possibility of introducing derogations in order to cover nearly 97 % of its road network.

Moreover, in accordance with Article 64(1) of the Law on Road Traffic, (2) in order to be able to use roads which are not part of the TEN-T, that is to say, nearly 97 % of the roads comprising the public road network, the owners of the vehicles concerned must apply to the appropriate bodies for a special permit and must obtain such a permit, a requirement which gives rise to the following difficulties:

complicated administrative formalities necessitating contacts with various administrative bodies;

the geographical area of validity of a permit is limited, which forces transport companies generally to apply for several permits for each route;

the time necessary to obtain a permit and the cost thereof.

Lastly, on the basis of Article 64(2) of the Law on Road Traffic mentioned above, a Category IV permit for use of national roads by vehicles with a driving axle weight amounting to 11.5 tonnes cannot be used for the carriage of divisible loads.

Directive 96/53/EC does not permit this type of obstruction and difficulty in the area of freedom of circulation of vehicles. A company which does not agree to submit to those conditions will be liable to a ban on the use of roads. Such a rule is contrary to Article 3 of Directive 96/53/EC, under which, through the conditions laid down therein, Member States may not ‘reject or prohibit’ the use in their territories, in international traffic, of vehicles complying with the maximum weight values specified in Annex I to that directive.

(1)  OJ 1996 L 235, p. 59.

(2)  Announcement of the Speaker of the Sejm (Lower House of Parliament) of the Republic of Poland of 30 August 2012 laying down the consolidated text of the Law on Road Traffic, Dziennik Ustaw 2012, item 1137.