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Brussels, 27 June 2007

Belgium before the Court of Justice for inadequate oil stock levels

The European Commission today decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice for failing to maintain the minimum level of oil stocks required by Community law. Strict observance of those rules is essential for the proper running of the system of stocks which aims to ensure the necessary level of security of supply in the event of a supply disruption.

In 2005 the Commission found that Belgium had reported oil stock levels which consistently failed to reach the requisite minimum 90-day level. The inadequate stocks concern one of the categories of oil products covered by Community law (gas oil, diesel oil, kerosene and jet-fuel of the kerosene type). The Commission therefore sent Belgium a letter of formal notice in July 2005 asking for its comments on the matter. Since its stock levels remained inadequate, the Commission sent Belgium a reasoned opinion in April 2006 calling on it to take the necessary measures.

The most recent statistics reported for the first few months of 2007 provide no evidence that the situation has been reliably and sustainably stabilised. In fact, according to those reports, the stock levels were of 84.2 days at the end of January and 83.5 days at the end of March 2007 (instead of the minimum 90-day level provided for in Directive 2006/67/EC). Accordingly, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice.

Any inadequacy in the oil stocks of a Member State has an effect on the security of supply of the other Member States. The internal market enables the movement of goods across the Community so that, at times of crisis, stocks may be released for the benefit of all the States. Consequently, any drop in stocks below the legally required levels in one Member State inevitably leads to a drop in the quantities available in the European Union as a whole as well as to an unfair distribution among the various Member States of the financial burden entailed by those stocks.

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