A Jerusalem Court Ruling: The European Commission is Immune to a Commercial Lawsuit

By Haggai Carmon


The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court dismissed a civil complaint against the European Commission filed by two plaintiffs following a public tender for supply of trucks, tractors and waste disposal equipment for an area in the Palestinian Authority.


The Court determined that under Israeli law the European Commission is immune to the lawsuit because it is “an international organization” recognized by Israel under a 1992 Decree of the Israeli Foreign Minister. The plaintiffs argued that given the subject matter of the lawsuit – a commercial transaction – the EC could not  be immune to it in Israel. The court disagreed: “In this matter, publishing a public tender seeking bids to perform work does indeed contain elements of a contract, which is private law. However, we should remember that the petitioner [the European Commission] is not a sovereign state but an international organization with certain goals. Publishing the tender and the performance of the works constitute expression and materialization of these goals. Therefore, the acts of the petitioner must be regarded as being within the public-governmental authority of the petitioner, and therefore it is entitled to immunity.”


If the European Commission were a sovereign state, it is likely that the lawsuit would proceed to a hearing on its merit, because sovereign immunity in Israel excludes commercial transactions. However, Israeli law follows customary international law, which grants almost absolute immunity to “recognized organizations” such as the Red Cross, the European Commission or the United Nations, even in commercial matters, and therefore the complaint against the European Commission was dismissed.


The European Commission raised additional arguments concerning lack of subject matter jurisdiction of the Israeli court due to choice of law, forum non conveniens, non-justiciability and other international law based arguments. However, the Court indicated that since it decided to dismiss the complaint on grounds of immunity, it did not find it necessary to rule on the other arguments. The complaint against the European Commission was dismissed with costs.


I represented the European Commission in this matter.











Category: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.