GC hints at a reduction of the burden of motivation of administrative decisions under EU law (T-319/11)

In its Judgment of 8 April 2014 in case T-319/11 ABN Amro Group v Commission, the General Court has indicated that the context in which an administrative decision is adopted may reduce the burden of motivation imposed on an institution when it deals with undertakings as interested parties, particularly when the alleged failure to provide sufficient motivation concerns a relatively secondary matter.
In the context of the judicial review of a State aid Decision adopted by the European Commission in the recapitalisation of ABN Amro by the Dutch State, the challengers of the Decision argued that the Commission had breached its duty of good administration and, more especifically, its obligation to provide reasons for the rejection of certain commitments linked to the restructuring of the bank.
Taking a pragmatical approach to the issue of whether the succint explanations provided by the Commission allowed the interested bank to assess its legal position, and whether the general motivation of the Decision was sufficient to discharge the requirements of the duty of good administration, the GC ruled that
138 [...] referring, by analogy, to the case-law according to which the reasons given for a measure adversely affecting a person are sufficient if that measure was adopted in a context which was known to that person and which enables him to understand the scope of the measure concerning him (see Case C‑417/11 P Council v Bamba [2012] ECR, paragraph 54 and case-law cited), it cannot be accepted in this case that the reasons stated in the contested decision do not meet the requisite legal standard because the decision does not discuss the alternative measures proposed by ABN Amro during the investigation procedure and rejected by the Commission (T-319/11 at para 138, emphasis added).
In my view, this Judgment can have interesting and positive implications if it is properly carried through to other areas of EU administrative law where, to date, the CJEU has adopted a much more demanding approach. In particular, I think that this incipient string of case law can be very helpful in the area of public procurement, where the current state of the law imposes what I deem as excessive debriefing obligations on the basis of the duty to provide reasons--which, in turn, result in a very dangerous and detrimental transparency in public procurement settings [for discussion, see "The Difficult Balance between Transparency and Competition in Public Procurement: Some Recent Trends in the Case Law of the European Courts and a Look at the New Directives", University of Leicester School of Law Research Paper No. 13-11]. I therefore hope that such pragmatical approach will be further developed and properly adjusted to other areas of EU Economic law, such as public procurement.