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Document 62012CN0061

Case C-61/12: Action brought on 6 February 2012 — European Commission v Republic of Lithuania

OJ C 118, 21.4.2012, p. 12–13 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)

21.4.2012   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 118/12


Action brought on 6 February 2012 — European Commission v Republic of Lithuania

(Case C-61/12)

2012/C 118/20

Language of the case: Lithuanian

Parties

Applicant: European Commission (represented by: A. Steiblytė, G. Wilms and G. Zavvos)

Defendant: Republic of Lithuania

Form of order sought

declare that, by prohibiting the registration of passenger cars whose steering wheel is mounted on the right-hand side and/or requiring prior to registration that a steering wheel mounted on the right-hand side of a new passenger car or of a passenger car previously registered in another Member State be transferred to the left-hand side, the Republic of Lithuania has failed to fulfil its obligations under Council Directive 70/311/EEC (1) of 8 June 1970 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the steering equipment for motor vehicles and their trailers, Directive 2007/46/EC (2) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 September 2007 establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles, and Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

order the Republic of Lithuania to pay the costs.

Pleas in law and main arguments

1.

Under legal measures of the Republic of Lithuania it is not permitted to register new passenger cars with the steering equipment on the right-hand side, although such cars satisfy all the requirements laid down in Framework Directive 2007/46/EC and in the separate directives specified in Annex IV thereto. On 29 April 2009 Directive 2007/46/EC repealed and amended Directive 70/156/EEC. (3) The Member States had to transpose the provisions of Directive 2007/46/EC into national law before 29 April 2009.

2.

Under Article 4(3) of Framework Directive 2007/46/EC, the competent institutions of a Member State must register a new passenger car if it satisfies the technical requirements laid down in that directive and the separate directives. Directive 2007/46/EC does not provide for the possibility to refuse to register a new passenger car by having regard to the side on which the steering equipment is mounted. This conclusion is also confirmed by the provisions of the separate Directive 70/311/EEC which are specified in Annex IV to the Framework Directive. Article 2a of Directive 70/311/EEC prohibits a Member State from refusing registration of a passenger car on grounds relating to its steering equipment if this equipment satisfies the requirements set out in that directive. It is not specified in the annexes to Directive 70/311/EEC on what side the steering equipment, including the steering wheel, has to be mounted, nor, all the more, is it specified that the side of the road on which the car is to be driven determines the side of the steering equipment in the car.

3.

Where a passenger car satisfies all the requirements of the directives referred to, there is no reason that could enable Member States in which the traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road to demand that the steering wheel be transferred to the left-hand side in order for the car to be registered. With a view to ensuring road safety, adaptation, pursuant to the Framework Directive and the separate directives, of a car with the steering wheel on the right-hand side to traffic on the right-hand side of the road does not require transfer of the steering wheel to the left-hand side.

4.

It is also not permitted under the legal measures of the Republic of Lithuania to register passenger cars previously registered in another Member State whose steering equipment is on the right-hand side. It is to be noted that in the legal measures of the Republic of Lithuania no distinction is drawn according to whether previously such a car was registered in a Member State in which the traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road or in a Member State where the traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road.

5.

Article 34 TFEU, which prohibits quantitative restrictions on trade and all measures having equivalent effect, is applicable to such prohibitions. On the basis of settled case-law of the Court of Justice, legal measures of the Member States which are capable of hindering, directly or indirectly, actually or potentially, trade within the European Union are to be considered measures having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions on trade.

6.

The prohibition applied in the Republic of Lithuania preventing the registration of passenger cars with the steering equipment on the right-hand side, where those cars were previously registered in another Member State, has an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions under Article 34 TFEU, because goods of another State (passenger cars manufactured and registered in another Member State) cannot be exploited in the Lithuanian market unless their steering equipment is transferred to the other side. The refusal to register cars with the steering wheel on the right-hand side compels the owners of such cars to carry out the comparatively expensive transfer of the steering equipment and discourages the import of such cars into the Republic of Lithuania.

7.

The refusal in the Republic of Lithuania to register passenger cars with the steering wheel on the right-hand side is not an appropriate means of ensuring road safety. In the Commission’s view, a car with the steering wheel on the right-hand side does not give rise to road-safety problems, but the driver must get accustomed to driving a car with the steering equipment on the right-hand side on the right-hand side of the road so that the driving of such a car does not give rise to danger for other road users. The Commission would wish to draw the Court of Justice’s attention to the incoherence of the Republic of Lithuania’s position: persons on occasion driving passenger cars with the steering wheel on the right-hand side (for example tourists), who are not accustomed to the particular circumstances of traffic on the right-hand side of the road, give rise to a greater threat to road safety than drivers permanently driving such cars on the right-hand side of the road. Over time, drivers permanently driving passenger cars with the steering wheel on the right-hand side get accustomed to traffic driving on the right-hand side of the road and do not give rise to any threat to road safety.


(1)  Council Directive 70/311/EEC of 8 June 1970 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the steering equipment for motor vehicles and their trailers (OJ, English Special Edition 1970 (II), p. 375).

(2)  Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 September 2007 establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles (Framework Directive) (OJ 2007 L 263, p. 1).

(3)  Council Directive 70/156/EEC of 6 February 1970 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers (OJ, English Special Edition 1970 (I), p. 96).


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