In the case of Spasov v. Romania (27122/14, 6.12.2022), the ECHR found that the applicant, the owner and captain of a vessel registered in Bulgaria who was fishing in Romania’s exclusive economic zone, had been the victim, inter alia, of a denial of justice (Art. 6 of the Convention) because he had been convicted on the basis of Romanian criminal law which previously had been found to be in breach of EU law, notably the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy, by the European Commission. By not applying these rules, which had direct effect in the Romanian legal order and prevailed over national law, the Romanian courts had made a manifest error of law.
In evaluating the impact of the relevant EU law in the present case, the ECHR did not engage in its own interpretation of EU law, for which it has indeed no competence, as recalled in § 83 of the judgment. Rather, it relied, in the absence of a ruling by the CJEU, on the clear position which had been expressed in this case by the European Commission in its exchange with the Romanian authorities, indicating to them that by prosecuting the applicant, they had committed serious breaches of EU law, notably of Regulations nos. 2371/2002 and 1256/2010.
This case is an illustration of the fact that it is not only compliance with EU law by the domestic authorities which can give rise to an issue under the Convention (see, among others, Bosphorus v. Ireland; Bivolaru and Moldovan v. France). It is also, in certain specific circumstances, the failure to comply with EU law (in a similar sense, see Romeo Castaño v. Belgium).