Free movement of goods and the elimination of quantitative restrictions as between Member States

Article 34 of the TFEU (ex-Article 30 of the EC Treaty) established that all quantitative restrictions on importation and all measures with equivalent effect are prohibited between the Member States.

Due to this landmark case, further protection to the freedom of movement of goods was granted since the European Court of Justice understood that Article 30 of the EC Treaty requires the Member States not merely themselves to abstain from adopting measures or engaging in conduct liable to constitute an obstacle to trade but also, when read with Article 5 of the Treaty, to take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that that fundamental freedom is respected on their territory.

In addition, it was clarified that the fact that a Member State abstains from taking action or, as the case may be, fails to adopt adequate measures to prevent obstacles to the free movement of goods that are created, in particular, by actions by private individuals on its territory aimed at products originating in the other Member States is just as likely to obstruct intra-Community trade as is a positive act.

Case Summary

The Commission of the European Communities brought an action for failure to fulfil obligations against the French Republic, asking the Court of Justice to declare that by failing to take all necessary and proportionate measures in order to prevent the free movement of fruit and vegetables from being obstructed by actions by private individuals, the French Republic has failed to fulfil its obligations under the common organization of the markets in agricultural products and Article 30 in conjunction with Article 5 of the EC Treaty.


The French authorities are especially denounced for their passivity and lack of action in the face of acts of violence committed by individuals and by protest movements of French farmers against agricultural products from other Member States, such as Spain, the United Kingdom, Denmark, among others.


The court of justice has concluded that France has indeed breached its obligations to protect the free movement of goods and in consequence, it violates Article 30 of the EC Treaty, concerning the elimination of all barriers, whether direct or indirect, actual or potential, to flows of imports in intra-Community trade, because this Article does not prohibit solely measures emanating from the State which, in themselves, create restrictions on trade between Member States, but also applies where a Member State abstains from adopting the measures required in order to deal with obstacles to the free movement of goods which are not caused by the State.


Furthermore, the Court has rejected the allegations of the French state, considering that the economic grounds can never serve as justification for barriers prohibited by Article 30 of the Treaty and that a Member State may not unilaterally adopt protective measures or conduct itself in such a way as to obviate any breach by another Member State of rules of Community law.


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