the Council of State pays mayors

The Council of State has definitely considered that the mayors of the municipalities did not have the power to issue decrees that prohibited the use of pesticides in their municipalities, the regulation of these controversial products falling under the prerogatives of the State, we learned this Thursday.

The decision depends on the state

In this decision, issued on December 31 and revealed by several specialized publications in the local authorities, the highest French administrative court dismissed an appeal from the municipality of Arcueil against the suspension – in the first instance and then on appeal – at the request of the prefect. de Val-de-Marne of a decree of this type adopted in September 2019.

The administrative judges emphasize in particular that “the special police power of phytosanitary products entrusted to the State authorities makes it difficult for the mayor of a municipality to enact regulatory measures that prohibit the general use of these products.”

Several municipalities had issued decrees of this type

This decision closes a long legal-political series, which began in May 2019 when the mayor of Langouët (Ille-et-Vilaine Daniel Cueff, who has since left office, had issued a decree prohibiting the use of phytosanitary products “in a Distance of less than 150 m from any cadastral parcel including a building for residential or professional use “.

His decree was quickly canceled at the request of state officials, but the initiative had sparked wide debate in France about the use of pesticides.

Several dozen municipalities had subsequently adopted similar decrees, including Paris and Lille, and the movement had the support of parties and NGOs, green or left in particular.

Disappointed mayors and NGOs

“It is a very negative opinion, but we did not give up, we did not do all that to stop,” said Florence Presson, deputy mayor of Sceaux (Hauts-de-Seine) and officials of the Collective of Mayors Anti-Pesticides.

It should be noted that the communes of the Collective have submitted several requests for a priority issue of constitutionality (QPC) on the subject, said Corinne Lepage, former Minister of Ecology and lawyer for the collective, as well as about 40 municipalities involved. These requests invoke in particular the right to health and the precautionary principle, “which are violated by the principle of exclusive competence” of the State in this matter, which the State Council has just reaffirmed, Me Lepage specified.

Indeed, according to the lawyer, “the State does or does not do, but only it can do,” so its inaction can lead to the violation of these constitutional principles.

The group also plans to seize the European Commission in an action against France for “failing to protect residents,” Ms Presson and Lepage said.

François Veillerette, spokesman for the NGO Future Generations, very committed to this issue, for his part said “disappointed” and “annoyed that we let the users of pesticides negotiate their use and that at the same time he denies any protection power to mayors” .

He was referring to the exemptions provided for in a government decree of the end of 2019 on “no-treatment zones” for pesticides, which establishes minimum distances of use from homes: five meters for so-called low crops such as vegetables and cereals. , ten meters for tall crops, fruit trees or vines, 20 meters for substances considered more dangerous. The distances of five and ten meters may be reduced to three and five meters respectively, in particular in the case of the celebration of “departmental commitment letters” proposed by users.

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