During the implementation of EU external action programmes, disputes can arise that may lead to court action. These disputes can relate to contractual or non-contractual claims.
In the case of contractual claims, the underlying contract will determine the applicable dispute settlement procedure. The contract encourages parties to the contract to resolve the dispute amicably which is what occurs in most cases.
The clauses of external action contracts in which the European Commission is the contracting authority designate, as a rule, the Belgian courts in Brussels as the competent court for any contractual dispute.
These are, however, only general indications; the precise provisions of the contract with respect to dispute settlement have to be applied.
The clauses of EU financed external action contracts in which the administration of the beneficiary third state is the contracting authority, indicate that the contractual dispute is submitted, as last resort, to the decision of a national jurisdiction or to arbitration.
In the case of contracts financed from the European Development Fund (EDF) concluded with the administration of an ACP beneficiary third state, the way such arbitration proceedings are conducted is laid down in the Procedural Rules on Conciliation and Arbitration of Contracts Financed by the European Development Fund (EDF).
The contract encourages the parties to the contract to previously resolve the dispute amicably. In the absence of an amicable settlement, the parties may agree to the settlement of the dispute by conciliation.
These are, however, only general indications. The precise provisions of the contract with respect to dispute settlement have to be applied.
The vast majority of court actions based on non-contractual claims are initiated by candidates or tenderers disagreeing with the outcome of an EU-financed contract award procedure.
Court actions against the European Commission
Plaintiffs against the European Commission may have recourse to the procedures established under EU legislation. The EU General Court has jurisdiction over acts of the Commission intended to produce legal effects, vis-à-vis third parties (Articles 256 and 263 of the EU Treaty).
For further details, please consult the website of the EU General Court.
Court actions against a beneficiary third state
Plaintiffs against a beneficiary third state may have recourse to procedures established under this state’s national legislation. This would for instance apply to the case of a contract award decision taken by a local administration.
Should such a contracting authority fail to adhere to the procurement procedures provided for in the Practical Guide to contract procedures, the Commission reserves the right to refuse to finance the contract or to suspend, withhold or recover funding for the contracts concerned.