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Case C-112/00 Schmidberger v Austria [2003]

Facts

  • An environmental protest group planned and executed an anti-traffic protest, blocking a major motorway in Austria
  • The protest group had received permission from the Austrian authorities to go ahead with the protest
  • Diversions had been put in place to assist with traffic flow during 30-hour disruption to motorway traffic

Issue

  • Had Austria breached Art 34 TFEU on the free movement of goods between EU Member States by allowing, and not preventing, the protest?
  • Was Schmidberger, a haulage company, entitled to damages from the Austrian state, for failing to prevent the protest?

Decision

  • No, no

Reasoning

  • Although a Member State is obliged to remove obstacles to trade between Member States, doing so in this case would have disproportionately infringed on the rights of the protestors – the breach of Art 34 was justifiable under Art 36 TFEU
  • The ECJ found that the objectives of the protest group were irrelevant
  • As there had been no unjustifiable breach of Art 34 TFEU, there was no basis for a state liability claim by Schmidberger for the loss caused to them by the protest
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