Unfortunately, agricultural subsidies are also accompanied by disputes. Coming into contact with this topic on a daily basis, I will try to explain the course of the dispute and the main risks, as well as give some recommendations to avoid disputes.
The first recommendation when challenging PRIA decisions is not to get to this stage at all. It may be easy to say but hard to do – but there is still a lot that can be done. One of the most problematic circumstances in my practice is haste and deficiencies in submitting an application – whether it is a poor construction project that needs to be changed later, an annual report with unverified or questionable figures, missing correspondence with a cooperation partner during the application preparation or bid collection phase.
Another clear place where the need for further disputes can be significantly reduced is a good strategy when answering previous follow-up inquiries – then it is sometimes possible to reverse the project of a negative solution with good arguments, to improve the perspective of a further dispute or to make it clear that there is no point in spending money on a dispute. I have already written about how best to answer follow-up inquiries.
However, if the grant application has resulted in a non-appointment decision or a refund of the grant in a later phase, it is worth considering contesting it. Here, too, the first important point of consideration is the existence of the success prospects of contesting – I can say that a very considerable part of those who approach us with a PRIA decision decide after evaluating the prospect of a dispute on our part that contesting is not cost-effective and give up further proceedings. Often this makes sense. If there is hope of success in the challenge and the decision is certain, you should know the course of the challenge:
1. The first mandatory stage of contesting PRIA decisions related to agricultural subsidies is dispute procedure. This means that within 30 calendar days of receiving the decision, an appeal must be submitted to PRIA itself, which in turn has 30 days to resolve it. In case of greater complexity, PRIA can also extend the deadline for resolving the dispute, which still happens from time to time. At this stage, the PRIA continues to be the arbiter of the case, which analyzes the facts presented in the dispute and assesses based on that whether the decision was still legitimate. It should be taken into account that if previously all arguments have been used and presented beautifully when answering the follow-up inquiry, it is not very likely that the PRIA will change its mind, which will result in a decision to reject the argument. However, this already means the following stages of contestation.
2. The second stage is administrative court proceedings, where an appeal must be filed within 30 days of receiving the PRIA’s negative appeal decision. Following this, the applicant or PRIA (depending on which decision is against) can appeal to the district and state courts. The latter makes the final decision, and it has also happened that this final decision is the first where the applicant ultimately wins. The court looks at the whole matter with the eyes of a new outsider and gives its assessment of the matter.
The result of the dispute
When disputing, it is important to understand that both in the context of the dispute and the subsequent court proceedings, it is not actually decided whether to grant support or to ask for a final withdrawal. The content of the dispute is the legality of a specific decision (i.e. non-appointment or revocation), and if this decision is annulled as a result of the procedure, PRIA may make a new decision regarding the non-appointment or revocation of support by further considering the matter and conducting better proceedings. In this case, this new decision must be assessed in turn and a decision must be made about challenging it. Also, the court itself cannot determine the grade points to be given to the grant application, but only cancel the grade points given and oblige PRIA to assign the grade points again. As a result of all this, the new need to contest is not usual in the context of the instructions given by the court to the PRIA, but this risk must be taken into account.
Delayed in case of recovery of support
If the appealable decision is the recovery of support, the risk of delay must also be taken into account in the event of a loss. Unreimbursed support carries a late fee of 0.1% per day, which means that the amount of the reimbursable support is doubled after already three years of contesting. Therefore, when contesting, it is necessary to consider and find ways to mitigate this risk.
If the dispute drags on for so long that the support period or money runs out
It is also possible that the dispute drags on and is successful, but in the end the money has run out in this round, and despite the right arguments and a positive judgment, PRIA decides not to award the grant because the money has run out. In such a case, it is possible to recover damages in a new procedure according to the provisions of state liability – here it is possible to claim no more support, but the damage caused by not receiving the support. According to the practice of the Supreme Court, such a loss is the loss of support, from which the costs that the applicant did not incur due to the non-receipt of support and which would not have increased the value of the applicant’s property must be deducted.
In summary, contesting the PRIA’s decision is definitely a matter that needs to be considered in every aspect before taking action, and the risks must also be mitigated along with the perspective assessment. We do this every day – if you have any questions or need help, feel free to contact us.
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Source: https://www.aripaev.ee/ by www.aripaev.ee.
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