Successfully represented AS Tartu Agro in Supreme Court

27.04.2022 Successfully represented AS Tartu Agro in Supreme Court

TGS Baltic senior associates Triin Kaurov and Triinu Järviste represented AS Tartu Agro in the Estonian Supreme Court as a result of which, the Ministry of Rural Affairs must give out a legal opinion concerning the decision of the European Commission on unlawful state aid made against Tartu Agro. The team also included Mari-Liis Orav and Robin Luts.

In its decision made at the beginning of 2020, the European Commission found that the Estonian state had granted unlawful state aid to Tartu Agro in the form of an excessively favourable rental price and that this state aid must be recovered from the company. In connection with the decision by the Commission, Estonia ordered a legal opinion from Law Firm Derling Primus (now Walless) and decided not to challenge the Commission’s decision. The Ministry of Rural Affairs submitted a recourse claim concerning the state aid to AS Tartu Agro and the company repaid the corresponding amounts to the state.

Nevertheless, Tartu Agro challenged the Commission’s decision in the Court of Justice of the European Union and the respective proceedings are still pending. But Tartu Agro was not given access to the legal opinion ordered by the state regarding the Commission's decisions. However, according to the 18 April 2022 judgment of the Supreme Court, the state must give out the legal opinion to Tartu Agro. TGS Baltic senior associate Triinu Järviste, who represented Tartu Agro in the dispute, explained that the judgment of the Supreme Court is, therefore, an important intermediate finish victory and confirms that the ministry has kept this document secret from Tartu Agro impermissibly.”

Triin Kaurov, a partner of Law Firm TGS Baltic, further emphasized that it cannot be interpreted from the judgment of the Supreme Court that legal opinions given by attorneys to state agencies should always and unrestrictedly be published. “The state had and continues to have the opportunity to receive effective – and confidential – legal assistance from an attorney. However, the judgment of the Supreme Court clearly confirms the already known principle of the rule of law that the administration of the state must be transparent and controllable,” explains Kaurov. “There must be a specific legal basis for refusing to disclose documents, which simply did not exist in this case.” Järviste adds that although there are indeed several situations in which legal opinions issued by attorneys to clients who are states should not be given out, the refusal cannot be based solely on the fact that the state does not like the disclosure of the document or the disclosure is not suitable for the state.