Public procurement keeps steady in CJEU's 2015 Annual Report--A quick look

The Court of Justice of the European Union has made available a preliminary version of its 2015 Annual Report (see here). It offers data that consolidates public procurement as a very significant area of activity, continuing with the trend identified since 2012 (and in 2014), and likely to be boosted by the need to interpret the new rules of the 2014 public procurement package, which enter into force in less than two weeks (on 18 April 2016), despite most Member States not having transposed. Pending a more detailed assessment of the data, some figures have caught my attention.

When it comes to the CJEU itself, in 2015, it opened 26 new public procurement cases (including 22 direct actions) and decided 14 cases (of which 12 were judgments and 2 were orders), thus also continuing the increasing trend of accumulated backlog of cases in this important area of EU law. It also reviewed two appeals against interim measures and denied both of them.

On its part, the General Court (GC), also in 2015, opened 23 new procurement cases and took 22 decisions (including 12 judgments and 10 orders), thus managing to cope with a balanced input/output of new workload, but probably not absorbing the backlog accumulated in previous years (which remains at 35 pending cases as of 31 December 2015, in line with the 36 pending in 2013 and the 34 pending in 2014). Regarding interim measures, the GC reviewed 7 applications and granted 3 of them. Of the 4 GC decisions appealed before the CJEU decided in 2015, 3 were upheld.

Overall, unfortunately, the same conclusion as in previous years seems clear: the CJEU and the GC are struggling to keep pace with their public procurement workload, and this is likely to get worse in the coming few years, particularly if preliminary questions regarding the direct effect of the 2014 public procurement package mushroom as a spillover of the late transposition in the Member States. In any case, also as in previous years, this quantitative information needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, as there are many qualitative nuances that cannot be identified at this level.