The Court of Justice of the EU explains the field of application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the ne bis in idem principle.
The European Commission and a number of Member State Governments disputed the admissibility of the questions referred for a preliminary ruling stating that the provisions of the Charter are addressed to the Member States only when they are implementing European Union law and this was not the case in the main proceedings. However, the CJEU held that tax penalties and criminal proceedings for tax evasion constitute implementation of a number of provisions of EU law, even if they have not been specifically and exclusively designed to transpose EU law, and held that it has jurisdiction to rule on the substance.
The Court decided that the ne bis in idem principle laid down in Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union does not preclude a Member State from imposing successively a tax penalty and a criminal penalty and the national court should determine that. Also the Court ruled that the European Union law does not control the relations between the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the legal systems of the Member States, neither does it define the conclusions drawn by a national court if a dispute between the rights guaranteed by that convention and a rule of national law, arises. In its judgment the Court made clear that the Charter is addressed to the Member States only when they are implementing EU law as defined in Article 51(1) and the fundamental rights guaranteed in the EU legal framework are applicable in all situations governed by European Union law, but only within these situations. Despite the fact that the Court has no jurisdiction to examine the compatibility with the Charter of national legislation lying outside the scope of European Union law, if such legislation falls within the scope of European Union law, then the Court, when requested to give a preliminary ruling, must provide all the guidance and assist the national court to determine whether that legislation is compatible with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter.