Eecution of a debt derived from non-payment of sales taxes levied by the Institute for the Direction and Regulation of Agricultural Markets (IROMA)
Interpretation of Community law
Execution of debts
RULING Nº 621/98
3 of November of 1998
The "double violation of Community laws" alleged by the applicant, resulting from the continued levying of a meat marketing charge in breach of Council Directive no. 17/378/EEC of 17 May 1977 (and which is not provided for in Article 378 of the Act of Accession of Portugal to the Communities), and of Article 8 of the Constitution, does not fall within the Constitutional Court's jurisdiction.
Since Community law - which has been "extensively and comprehensively" incorporated into Portuguese law, inter alia by a clause in the Constitution itself - provides for a special court, with the task of protecting it (not only in terms of inter-governmental or inter-state relations), and ensuring that it is uniformly applied and takes precedence over national law, it would be absurd to entrust the same task to a court of the same or a similar kind (such as the Constitutional Court) at national level.
A pig slaughterhouse objected to the enforcement of debts resulting from its failure to pay the marketing charge levied by the Agricultural Markets Control and Guidance Institute (IROMA), on the ground that this charge was unlawful and unconstitutional. One of its arguments in the constitutional proceedings was that Article 33 of the Sixth Directive of the Council of the European Communities of 17 May 1977 (Directive no. 17/378/EEC) prohibited member states from levying turnover tax in addition to value added tax. This Directive became law in Portugal on 1 January 1986. Article 378 of the Act of Accession of Portugal to the Communities to the EEC makes no mention of this measure, and so the levying of turnover tax after that date violates Article 8.3 of the Constitution, under which regulations formally laid down by international organisations of which Portugal is a member apply directly in Portuguese law, to the extent provided for by the relevant constitutive treaties.
There is, however, a special judicial procedure - the preliminary rulings procedure - for conflicts between domestic and Community law, and this is operated by the Court of Justice of the European Communities. The argument that incompatibility of domestic law with Community law is "unconstitutional", and so requires a ruling from the Constitutional Court, must therefore be rejected.
In its Decision no. 326/98 of 5 May 1998, the Constitutional Court had decided that it had no jurisdiction to rule on the unconstitutionality of this same domestic regulation in direct relation to Article 33 of the Sixth Directive of the Council of the European Communities (Directive no. 17/378/EEC). Concerning the claim that incompatibility with Community law constituted a direct violation of Article 8.3 of the Constitution, it upheld its earlier position that it must be asked for a ruling on the constitutional validity of any law alleged to violate a constitutional rule or principle directly (immediately). Indirect violations are not, therefore, included.