Official Journal of the European Union

C 239/59

Action brought on 30 May 2017 — Help — Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe v Commission

(Case T-335/17)

(2017/C 239/71)

Language of the case: German


Applicant: Help — Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe e.V. (Bonn, Germany) (represented by: V. Jungkind and P. Cramer, lawyers)

Defendant: European Commission

Form of order sought

The applicant claims that the Court should:

annul the defendant’s decision of 21 March 2017 (Ares(2017)1515573) by which a partial amount of the funding for the assistance project Food Security Promotion for very food insecure farming households in Zimbabwe (ECHO/ZWE/BUD/2009/02002) totalling EUR 643 627,72 was to be recovered as well as the payment request based thereupon of 7 April 2017 (No 3241705513) by which the defendant demanded the payment of the first instalment totalling EUR 321 813,86; and

order the defendant to pay the cost of the proceedings.

Pleas in law and main arguments

In support of the action, the applicant relies on three pleas in law:


First plea in law: The approach complained about by the defendant is not an infringement of substantive law

The applicant’s action, of which the defendant complains, in the award of two contracts for the delivery of agricultural goods did not infringe binding substantive law requirements for the organisation of calls to tender in the field of humanitarian projects. In particular, it was in conformity with the mandatory procurement principles under Article 184(1) of the Implementing Rules relating to the EU Financial Regulation 2009 and Article 2(3) of the Rules and Procedures in Annex IV to the Framework Partnership Agreement on the EU’s cooperation with Non-Governmental Organisations in the field of humanitarian assistance of 2008.

The action complained of moreover does not infringe the documentation requirement under Article 23(4) of the general rules laid down in Annex III to the Framework Partnership Agreement.


Second plea in law: No other grounds for the recovery

There are also no other grounds for a recovery of the financial assistance. In particular, the undertaking chosen by the applicant delivered the ordered goods on time, in full and of appropriate quality. The applicant moreover carried out the assistance project successfully, which was confirmed by, in total, four independent reviews by third parties.

There was no criminal conduct on the part of the applicant’s staff. The Staatsanwaltschaft Bonn (Public Prosecutor's Office, Bonn, Germany) did not initiate a criminal investigation as a criminal offence was not suspected.


Third plea in law (in the alternative): Failure to exercise discretion and disproportionality

The decision on the recovery of the financial assistance which has been awarded was taken by the defendant on the erroneous assumption that it was subject to a binding recommendation of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the recovery. This is a failure to exercise discretion on the part of the defendant with the result that the recovery is unlawful.

The recovery of the total partial sum of EUR 643 627,27 is, moreover, unlawful due to the infringement of the principle of proportionality under Article 5(4) TEU. It goes beyond what is necessary to protect the financial budget and, in particular in the light of the assistance project being successfully carried out, would not be proportionate to the applicant’s burden.