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‘Reversed’, ‘Excessive’ or Misconstrued? The Controversy About the Burden of Proof in MEOP Cases

Małgorzata Cyndecka


Keywords: Applicability and application of the MEOP, Burden of proof, Scope of Commission’s obligations

Following the landmark judgments in Ryanair of 2008, EDF of 2012 or ING of 2014, it is no longer disputed that one distinguishes between the applicability of the Market Economy Operator Principle (MEOP) and its application. Yet, one of the most relevant consequences of making that distinction - the allocation of the burden of proof - still raises controversy. When the GC annulled the Commission’s decision in EDF due to an insufficient and flawed assessment of the applicability of the MEOP, the Commission, EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) and AG Mazák argued that the GC erred in law by reversing the burden of proof. The same argument was raised by the Commission in Buczek Automotive of 2013. In Frucona Košice II of 2017, the Commission claimed that the GC created a new requirement imposing on the Commission an ‘excessive burden of having to seek all “imaginable” evidence and information’ when it verifies compliance with the MEOP. In all those cases, the CJEU disagreed with the Commission. In 2018, however, the EU Courts handed down judgments concerning the MEOP where the Commission’s line of argument was more successful. Most importantly, EDF, Larko and Duferco seem to have provided more clarity with respect to discharging the burden of proof when establishing the applicability of the MEOP and its application and, in particular, the Commission’s obligations in this regard. Given the importance of apportioning the burden of proof and the difficulties with that issue resulting from the distinction between the applicability and application, more clarifications from the EU Courts are very much welcome. Keywords: Applicability and application of the MEOP; Burden of proof; Scope of Commission’s obligations.

Małgorzata Agnieszka Cyndecka, PhD, Associate Professor at The Faculty of Law, University of Bergen, Member of BECCLE, Associate Editor of EStAL.


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