Public Procurement in the European Union

Public procurement refers to the process by which public bodies purchase works, goods and services from suppliers through an open and competitive procedure in order to achieve quality and value for money. Some €2 trillion is spent on such procurement every year by over 250 000 public authorities. This corresponds to approximately 14 % of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the EU’s 27 member states. This expenditure covers a broad spectrum of sectors, including energy, transport, waste management, social protection and the provision of health or education services, among others, where public authorities are often the major consumers.

EU Legislation on Public Procurement

To ensure fairness and transparency in procurement processes, the EU has established a comprehensive legal framework. This includes:

These directives aim to harmonize public procurement rules across the EU, promoting equal access to procurement opportunities for all businesses and fostering a competitive and integrated market environment.

The European Commission plays a crucial role in this context. It is responsible for overseeing the implementation and enforcement of these directives across the member states to ensure a level playing field for all businesses within the EU. The Commission also monitors compliance with the rules, intervening when necessary to address any infringements, thereby promoting fair competition and efficient market functioning across the Union.

Legal Advisory in Public Procurement

S-TEAM advises clients on all aspects of EU law relevant to public procurement. This includes guiding clients through national public procurement procedures to ensure they are well-prepared and compliant. We also represent clients in litigation against European institutions, drawing on our experience to advocate effectively on their behalf. Our team has an extensive experience in handling public procurement litigation before the Court of Justice of the European Union, delivering precise and well-informed legal support in this specialised area.

Our Approach

Expertise: Leveraging our deep understanding of EU public procurement laws, we aim to provide our clients with knowledgeable advice and effective legal solutions.

Support: We offer comprehensive legal services, from consultation on procurement procedures to representation in disputes and litigation, ensuring our clients are well-prepared to navigate the procurement landscape.

Insight: Our focus is on delivering strategic insights that help clients understand and effectively engage with the public procurement sector within the EU.

European sanctions (restrictive measures)

Restrictive measures or ‘sanctions’ are an essential tool of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). They are used by the EU as part of an integrated and comprehensive policy approach, involving political dialogue, complementary efforts, and the use of other instruments at its disposal.

Key objectives when adopting sanctions

– safeguarding EU’s values, fundamental interests, and security
– preserving peace
– consolidating and supporting democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law
– preventing conflicts and strengthening international security

Sanctions seek to change the policy or conduct of those targeted, with a view to promoting the objectives of the CFSP. They can target:

– governments of non-EU countries because of their policies
– entities (companies) providing the means to conduct the targeted policies
– groups or organizations such as terrorist groups
– individuals supporting the targeted policies, involved in terrorist activities, etc.

It should be noted that the implementation of such sanctions must always comply with EU law, both at listing and at periodic review.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has already recalled that “The European Union is based on the rule of law, inasmuch as neither its Member States nor its institutions can avoid review of the conformity of their acts with the basic constitutional charter, the EU and the FEU Treaties, the latter having established a complete system of legal remedies and procedures designed to enable the Court of Justice of the European Union to review the legality of acts of the institutions ” and that “generally, the EU judicature must, in accordance with the powers conferred on it by the FEU Treaty, ensure the review, in principle the full review, of the lawfulness of all EU acts in the light of the fundamental rights forming an integral part of the EU legal order.”

In the field of European sanctions, the Court has held that “The effectiveness of the judicial review guaranteed by Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights requires in particular that the EU judicature is to ensure that the decision by which restrictive measures were adopted or maintained, which affects the person or entity concerned individually, is taken on a sufficiently solid factual basis. That entails verification of the factual allegations in the summary of reasons underpinning that decision, with the consequence that judicial review cannot be restricted to an assessment of the cogency in the abstract of the reasons relied on, but must concern whether those reasons or, at the very least, one of those reasons, deemed sufficient in itself to support that decision, is substantiated”

If a sanctioned person were to lodge an application for annulment, and the Council of the EU fails to establish that the reasons relied on against the person concerned are well founded, the Court shall annul the decision to include or maintain the person concerned on the list of sanctioned persons.

In addition, the person who has been wrongfully sanctioned may claim compensation for damages, provided that the conditions for engaging the extra-contractual liability of the Union are satisfied. (To see the conditions, refer to our article here)

In this regard, we pioneered claims for such compensation for one of our clients whose success before the Court of Justice of the European Union (Grand Chamber) have set the benchmark for compensation in EU sanction cases (C-45/15 P, Safa Nicu Sepahan/Council)

Diplomatic and Consular Missions

We regularly advise diplomatic and consular missions not only on the application of (i) the rules of law relating to their status, privileges and immunities and to those of the members of their staff and their families, as they derive in particular from the Conventions of Vienna on diplomatic and consular relations, but also (ii) on provisions of Belgian law. For example, we can intervene within the framework of:

  • Providing advice on Belgian labor legislation;
  • Drafting of social documents in accordance with Belgian law (work regulations eligible for approval by the Commission des Bons Offices (CBO) and the work inspection, employment contracts, dismissal letters etc.);
  • Obtaining work permits for certain members of the staff of diplomatic missions (especially when the period of validity of special cards expires);
  • Rules governing the main contracts binding the diplomatic mission or the consulate with local players (leases, sales contracts, business or insurance contracts, etc.);
  • Rules governing immunities from jurisdiction and execution of diplomatic missions, consulates and diplomats;
  • Tracking CD license plates and special identity cards to categories of personnel active in diplomatic and consular missions, and to members of their families;
  • Monitoring of special identity cards for private servants of foreign diplomatic representatives (being the head of a diplomatic or consular post or the head of a recognized international organization with diplomatic status).

We also assist diplomatic and consular missions in monitoring, if necessary in close collaboration with the Protocol Service (foreign affairs) and the FPS Finance, all legal and tax matters concerning them.

International Organizations

We advise international organizations on all types of legal matters and, in particular, on any issue inherent in the application of a Headquarters Agreements (bilateral and multilateral) establishing the statutes of international organizations wishing to establish themselves in Belgium.

These Headquarters Agreements primarily determine the fiscal privileges and jurisdictional immunities of the organization and of its staff.

We moreover, manage the administrative aspects of the stay of international civil servants and members of their families on Belgian territory in consultation with the Protocol Service and international organizations.