Public procurement — Contracts falling below the threshold laid down in Directive 2004/18/EC — Articles 49 TFEU and 56 TFEU — Applicability — Certain cross-border interest — Grounds for exclusion from a tendering procedure — Exclusion of an economic operator having committed an infringement of national competition rules, established by a judgment given not more than five years ago — Lawfulness — Proportionality
In so far as the provisions of the TFEU relied on by the referring court are concerned, it must be observed that, where a public contract does not come within the scope of Directive 2004/18, because it falls short of the relevant threshold laid down in Article 7 of that directive, that contract is subject to the fundamental rules and general principles of that treaty, provided that it is of certain cross-border interest in the light, inter alia, of its value and the place where it is carried out (see, to that effect, judgments in Ordine degli Ingegneri della Provincia di Lecce and Others, C‑159/11, EU:C:2012:817, paragraph 23, and Consorzio Stabile Libor Lavori Pubblici, C‑358/12, EU:C:2014:2063, paragraph 24).
In relation to the exclusion of economic operators from a public contract in the context of freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services under Articles 49 TFEU and 56 TFEU, it must be observed that Article 45(2)(d) of Directive 2004/18 makes it possible to exclude any operator who ‘has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate’.
It must be observed that the concept of ‘professional misconduct’, for the purposes of that provision, covers all wrongful conduct which has an impact on the professional credibility of the operator at issue and not only the infringements of ethical standards in the strict sense of the profession to which that operator belongs (see, to that effect, judgment in Forposta and ABC Direct Contact, C-465/11, EU:C:2012:801, paragraph 27). In those circumstances, the commission of an infringement of the competition rules, in particular where that infringement was penalised by a fine, constitutes a cause for exclusion under Article 45(2)(d) of Directive 2004/18.
If such a cause for exclusion is possible under Directive 2004/18, it must a fortiori be regarded as justified in relation to public contracts which fall short of the threshold defined in Article 7 of that directive and which are consequently not subject to the strict special procedures laid down in that directive (see, to that effect, judgment in Consorzio Stabile Libor Lavori Pubblici, C-385/12, EU:C:2014:2063, paragraph 37).
The answer to the questions referred is that Articles 49 TFEU and 56 TFEU do not preclude the application of national legislation excluding the participation in a tendering procedure of an economic operator which has committed an infringement of competition law, established by a judicial decision having the force of res judicata, for which a fine was imposed.
In this preliminary ruling, the Court of Justice has confirmed that even if a public contract does not come within the scope of an EU directive and national legislation did not make the directive concerned directly and unconditionally applicable to such a contract, the contract may still be subject to the fundamental rights and principles of the TFEU provided it is of certain cross-border interest.