The principle of equal treatment, as a general principle of European Union law, requires that comparable situations must not be treated differently and that different situations must not be treated in the same way, unless such treatment is objectively justified.
In the first place, with regard to the product benchmarks defined in the contested decision, applicant argued that their application to companies using natural gas in the same way as to those using coal with high carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions distorts competition in the internal market and thus breaches the principle of equal treatment.
According to applicant, those companies were in different situations due to the use of different fuels. However, without objective justification, such companies are treated equally by the contested decision. To ensure that that decision is consistent with the principle of equal treatment, the product benchmark must be corrected appropriately, for example, according to the proposal of the Republic of Poland on fuel emission parameters.
The European Commission in this case did not deny having treated equally installations that were in different situations due to the use of different fuels. However, it argued that that equal treatment in the contested decision is objectively justified in the light of Directive 2003/87.
The Court supported the Commission’s stance in that regard. Thus the equal treatment of installations that are in different situations due to the use of different fuels when determining the product benchmarks was regarded by the General Court as objectively justified.