Les services juridiques sont-ils soumis aux marchés publics?

Sur question préjudicielle de la Cour constitutionnelle belge (arrêt n° 43/2018), la Cour de Justice a été amenée à se prononcer sur la légalité de l’exclusion de la nécessité de soumettre les services juridiques d’avocats et d’arbitrage à des procédures de passation de marchés publics. Cette exclusion est prévue par la loi relative aux marchés publics du 17 juin 2016 (article 28, §1er, 3° et 4°) transposant la directive 2014/24 du Parlement européen et du Conseil du 26 février 2014 sur la passation des marchés publics.

La Cour a tout d’abord estimé qu’en conformité avec le principe de subsidiarité, la réglementation européenne a légalement laissé aux législateurs nationaux le choix de déterminer si ces services juridiques devaient ou non être soumis aux règles et procédures de passation des marchés publics.

Les services d’arbitrage et de conciliation

Plus précisément, la Cour a jugé qu’en ce qui concerne les services d’arbitrage et de conciliation, les organismes ou personnes fournissant des services d’arbitrage et de conciliation sont sélectionnés d’une manière qui ne peut être soumise à des règles de passation de marchés publics, dans la mesure où ils doivent toujours être acceptés par toutes les parties et sont désignés d’un commun accord par celles-ci. Un organisme public qui lancerait une procédure de passation de marchés publics pour un service d’arbitrage ou de conciliation ne saurait, dès lors, imposer à l’autre partie l’adjudicataire de ce marché en tant qu’arbitre ou conciliateur commun.

Les services d’avocats

Ensuite, concernant les services fournis par des avocats, la Cour estime que le législateur de l’Union a pris en compte le fait que de tels services juridiques sont habituellement fournis par des personnes qui sont désignés ou sélectionnés d’une manière qui ne peut, ici non plus, être soumise à des règles de passation des marchés publics. Sont cependant uniquement exclus (i) la représentation légale de son client dans le cadre d’une procédure devant une instance internationale d’arbitrage ou de conciliation, devant les juridictions ou les autorités publiques d’un État membre ou d’un pays tiers ainsi que devant les juridictions ou institutions internationales, et (ii) le conseil juridique fourni dans le cadre de la préparation ou de l’éventualité d’une telle procédure.

La Cour a précisé à cet égard que « de telles prestations de services fournies par un avocat ne se conçoivent que dans le cadre d’une relation intuitu personae entre l’avocat et son client, marquée par la confidentialité la plus stricte. Or, d’une part, une telle relation intuitu personae entre l’avocat et son client, caractérisée par le libre choix de son défenseur et le rapport de confiance qui unit le client à son avocat, rend difficile la description objective de la qualité attendue des services à fournir. D’autre part, la confidentialité de la relation entre l’avocat et son client, dont l’objet consiste, (…) tant à sauvegarder le plein exercice des droits de la défense des justiciables qu’à protéger l’exigence selon laquelle tout justiciable doit avoir la possibilité de s’adresser en toute liberté à son avocat (…) pourrait être menacée par l’obligation, pour le pouvoir adjudicateur, de préciser les conditions d’attribution d’un tel marché ainsi que la publicité qui doit être donnée à de telles conditions ».

La Cour en conclut que l’exclusion belge des services juridiques d’avocats et d’arbitrage des procédures de passation de marchés publics ne méconnait pas le principe d’égalité de traitement.

***

Laura Grauer

 

Simont Braun assisted Rewe in one of the largest mergers in the European retail sector

Simont Braun has advised Rewe, the second largest German supermarket chain, on the Belgian legal aspects of the purchase of Lekkerland/Conway, a major wholesaler specialised in consumption on the go, supplying gas stations, kiosks, convenience stores, etc. The transaction was signed on 28 May 2019 and the parties are now waiting for clearance by the competition authorities.

As both Rewe Group and Lekkerland are active in several European countries, their merger implied substantial cross-border aspects and the active cooperation of several top tier law firms, principally in Germany (lead), Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain.

Simont Braun’s Corporate M&A team advised Rewe on the Belgian legal aspects of the transaction, in particular by carrying out a legal due diligence on the Belgian target companies and assisted on the related legal and regulatory questions surrounding the transaction.

Our team is delighted to have contributed to such a landmark European cross-border transaction, in close cooperation with Taylor Wessing Germany (lead firm). Our demonstrated capabilities to act in the framework of international transactions make us a go-to law firm for such matters on the Belgian market. Our integrated multidisciplinary structure and strong linguistic skills were clearly a plus,” highlights Axel Maeterlinck, partner in Simont Braun’s Corporate M&A department.

The Rewe Group generated a turnover over € 61 billion last year, courtesy of its 360,000 employees in 22 European countries. With the merger with Lekkerland, a new European powerhouse is born in the convenience segment. Lekkerland has about 4,900 employees in Europe and generated a turnover of € 12.4 billion euro last financial year. In Belgium, the group operates under the name Conway and its 400 people generate a turnover of € 1.5 billion (source: www.retaildetail.be).

The Simont Braun team was led by partner Axel Maeterlinck, together with partners Fernand de Visscher, Steven Callens and the assistance of counsel Pierre Van Achter and associates Tine Bauwens, Laura Grauer, Julie Kever and Peter Blomme.

Publication de l’A.R. sur la gestion et l’assainissement des sols

Enfin! Le très attendu arrêté du Gouvernement wallon du 6 décembre 2018 relatif à la gestion et à l’assainissement des sols a été publié au Moniteur Belge vendredi dernier. Il est entré en vigueur rétroactivement au 1er janvier 2019 et est disponible ici

Pour toute question ou assistance, n’hésitez pas à contacter Manuela von Kuegelgen et Laura Grauer.

PropTech Lab x Simont Braun Breakfast seminar at the MIPIM 2019

This Wednesday, Simont Braun hosted the PropTech Leaders Breakfast on “Innovations in the cities and the role of public authorities to foster innovations in real estate and urban development” at the MIPIMWorld. Full house and outstanding speakers.

Thank you to PropTech Lab (Belgium), and Tariq Bsharat, Masterplan developer for Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, Katarzyna Gruszecka – Spychała, Deputy Mayor of Gdynia, Poland, Cécile Jodogne, State Secretary of Brussels Capital Region, Ricardo Veludo, Director at The Affordable Rents Project, Lisbon, and Arjan Dingste, Director at UNStudio, The Netherlands.

The Simont Braun Train has arrived at the MIPIM 2019!

Cette année encore, le cabinet d’avocats Simont Braun a organisé un voyage en train pour les Belges qui se rendent au MIPIM à Cannes.

Une initiative lancée en 2017 déjà. ‘A l’origine motivé par une conscience écologique grandissante avant la lettre, c’était aussi l’occasion de créer un événement… autour de l’événement,’ explique Thomas Braun, à l’initiative du projet. Et le succès ne s’est pas fait attendre : le « Train Simont Braun 2019 » est complet depuis le mois de décembre.

Les participants sont enthousiastes : la formule est pratique et conviviale, le déjeuner offert à bord, et les voyageurs ont l’occasion de rencontrer, en plus petit comité, un panel varié de professionnels de l’immobilier avant le bain de foule à Cannes, et d’en débriefer lors du trajet retour.

A l’heure où l’on marche pour le climat tous les jeudis, voilà une démarche qui s’inscrit dans l’air du temps. Quand on sait que le MIPIM attire près de 2000 belges chaque année et que moins de 8h suffisent pour s’y rendre en train, reste à espérer que le « Train Simont Braun » inspirera même les plus pressés.

Pour plus d’informations sur l’édition 2020, veuillez contacter Thomas Braun – thomas.braun@simontbraun.eu

The new Law on Public Procurement – Spotlight on the major changes

On 30 June 2017, the new law of 17 June 2016 on public procurement, published in the Belgian State Gazette of 14 July 2016, will enter into force for traditional sectors (Royal Decree of 18 April 2017, published in the Belgian State Gazette of 9 May 2017).

Spotlight on the major changes brought by the new regulation.

Introduction

The new law aims at implementing in the Belgian law the new Directive 2014/24/EU of 26 February 2014 on public procurement in traditional sectors and Directive 2014/25/EU of 26 February 2014 for utilities sectors.

Member States were required to transpose these Directives in their domestic legislation by 18 April 2016 at the latest. This substantial transposition work is now completed, and all actors involved in public procurement must adapt as from 30 June 2017.

In practice, must comply with the new regulation:

(i) all public procurements published – or which should have been published – as from 30 June 2017; and

(ii) public procurements where, in the absence of an obligation for prior publication, the invitation to submit a tender is sent as from 30 June 2017 (Article 131 of the Royal Decree above-mentioned).

In other words, this deadline implies that all public procurements which are published as from 30 June 2017 will have to comply with the new provisions, which replace the previous rules.

Major changes in the new law

  • Softer conditions to refer to negotiated or dialogue procedures

The European legislator wished to allow the contracting authorities to refer more easily to the competitive procedure with negotiation (Articles 35 and 38 of the new law). The “competitive procedure with negotiation” is the new appellation of the negotiated procedure with prior publication.

  • Introduction of a new award procedure: the innovation partnership

This procedure allows the contracting authority to define its needs, where such needs cannot be met by the acquisition of supplies, services or works already available on the market. Any economic operator may submit a request to participate in response to a contract notice by providing the information required for selection.

The contracting authority shall negotiate with tenderers the initial and all subsequent tenders submitted by them, except for the final tender, to improve the content thereof. However, the minimum requirements and award criteria shall not be subject to negotiations.

The contracting authority may decide to set up the innovation partnership with one partner or with several partners conducting separate research and development activities. This new procedure will allow implementing a new or significantly improved product, service or process, including but not limited to production, building or construction processes, a new marketing method or organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations inter alia with the purpose of helping to solve societal challenges or to support the European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

  • Open or restricted procedures remain the common procedures

The contracting authorities can use these procedures without specific justification. However, the use of the negotiation procedure has been facilitated.

  • The Belgian terms “adjudication”/“aanbesteding” and “appel d’offre”/“offerteaanvraag” were abandoned
  • The time limits applicable to the submission of tenders were shortened

In an open procedure, the minimum time limit for the receipt of tenders shall now be 35 days, against 45 days in the previous legislation. This time limit can be reduced by five days if tenders may be submitted by electronic means. Where the contracting authority has published a prior information notice, the minimum time limit for the receipt of tenders may be shortened to 15 days, provided that some conditions are fulfilled. Where there is a state of urgency duly substantiated by the contracting authority, it may fix a time limit which shall be not less than 15 days.

  • Definition of new “in-house” and public services cooperation exceptions

The new law foresees various exceptions to the application of public procurement rules. They implement the European Court of Justice’s case law on the subject. As a result, the well-known “simple in-house”, but also the “ascending”, “collateral” and “joined” in-house are now clearly regulated. The cooperation between two contracting authorities is also dealt with under the denomination “non-institutionalised horizontal cooperation” (Articles 30 and 31).

  • Obligation to use electronic means for communication

The implementation of this requirement will vary depending on whether the public procurement is above or below the European thresholds. For contracts above the thresholds where a European notification is required, all communications and exchanges shall be made by electronic means as of 18 October 2018 at the latest. This obligation shall apply to public procurements under the threshold requiring a European notification only as of 1 January 2020.

This obligation will not apply to a certain amount of public procurements: e.g. those involving the communication of sensitive data requiring confidentiality or involving the submission of physical models, those based on a negotiation procedure without prior publication where the estimated value is less than the European thresholds, or public procurements whose estimated value is less than 30.000 EUR (Article 14).

  • Introduction of the ESPD (European Single Procurement Document)

As stated in the recitals of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/7 of 5 January 2016 establishing the standard form for the ESPD, this document reflects the European legislator’s wish for administrative simplification, in such a manner to obviate the need to produce a substantial number of certificates or other documents related to exclusion and selection criteria. As a consequence, the new law states that, for contracts where the estimated value equals or is above the European thresholds, the contracting authority can, in an open procedure, control the tenders on the basis of the ESPD only, after verification of the absence of grounds for exclusion and the respect of the selection criteria. In such cases, the tenders can be evaluated, at this stage, without a deeper examination of the absence of grounds for exclusion and the respect of the selection criteria. Before referring to this option, the contracting authority must, however, have verified the absence of non-payment of taxes or social security contributions (Article 66).

  • Removal of the distinction between priority and non-priority services

As from now on, the distinction between the services referred to in Annexes II.A and II.B of the law of 15 June 2006 is abrogated. Whereas the services mentioned in Annex II.B used to beneficiate from an alleviated obligation of prior publication, they are now also subject to all provisions of the Directives.

 

Laura Grauer

Please do not hesitate to contact the author for any question:
laura.grauer@simontbraun.eu

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