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Italy's “privileged” relations with Agusta under surveillance

(B2) Italy's repeated purchases – and without a call for tenders – from its favorite (national) helicopter manufacturer Agusta are somewhat irritating at Berlaymont, headquarters of the European Commission. Who decided, Wednesday (the same day when Agusta and the Italian Ministry of Defense announced a new contract (1), to send a “reasoned opinion” for an already old affair (the purchase by Italy, still to Agusta, civil security helicopters). Italy is at great risk. It has, in fact, already been condemned for this by the ECJ in 2008 (ruling in principle (without fine). ), But the Commission considers that the government has done nothing to comply with the judgment. If the Court is seized again, it will be able, this time, to impose a fine.

Commission demands information from Italy

Certainly the Italian authorities have promised not to do it again…”Supply contracts awarded as part of this illegal practice cannot be put out to tender because they are almost entirely executed“. (…) For the future purchases of helicopters, (they) have undertaken to comply with the rules relating to public procurement”. But the Commission, burned by past examples, is not letting itself be counted on! The Court's judgment “requires at least Italy to take appropriate measures to ensure that EU rules on public procurement are respected in the future and that the Commission is regularly informed of the procedures that will be applied for the purchase of helicopters for a period proportionate to that of the illegal practice“. But “(the authorities) have provided no information regarding planned or contemplated purchases, even long-term“. The Commission considers that this information is necessary to ensure that the illegal practice has stopped. And so raised his white stick, as a warning. If within two months, Italy has not complied with its injunctions, it will again refer the matter to the Court, this time with a fine (paid in one go) and/or penalty (daily) as a result...

When Italy forgets its obligations!

According to my information, to date, Italy has not informed the European Commission of the new contract signed with Agusta. Even if this seems strictly military, we can consider that it falls within the scope of the obligations desired by the Commission. This announcement may seem like a provocation... In fact, it seems that it seems more like a legal trick. The reasoned opinion normally sets out the scope of the debate before the Court. By publishing it that day, we therefore naturally exclude it from the scope of the debate... Moreover, Italy does not show perfect good faith in the execution of the Court's judgments. And if there is a procedure, it could therefore backfire on the peninsula and not encourage the judges to be lenient…


(1) Italy buys 16 Chinook ICH-47F helicopters from AgustaWestland

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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