On November 16, 2022, CEE Legal Matters reported that Popescu & Asociatii had successfully represented the interests of the City of Sinaia in a construction dispute. CEELM reached out to Loredana Popescu, Partner at Popescu & Asociatii to learn more about the matter.
CEELM: To start, what is the background of the dispute?
Popescu: The European-funded project Park & Ride from Sinaia was contested by the Ministry for Development, Public Works and Administration. On the background of a received complaint and following a verification action, undertaken by the Directorate for Supervising the Regional Operational Programs, the authority established that the project, for which were already obtained funds, does not meet the conditions stipulated by the Applicant's Guide, although the project had been subjected, from the very beginning, to a thorough verification by the managing authority upon receiving the initial documents from Sinaia City Hall.
This procedure is mandatory and no project receives funding until it is verified by the authority in order to fulfill all the eligibility conditions. However, after signing the financing contract, although the project met all the conditions, it was re-verified and, without a legal basis, was found that it would not have actually fulfilled them, so the Ministry for Development, Public Works, and Administration decided to terminate the financing contract.
Sinaia City Hall could not agree with this measure since its representatives knew that the decision was not legal so they decided to challenge the termination. There followed a dispute that took place over more than three years and was recently completed in favor of Sinaia city by canceling the termination decision.
CEELM: At what stage was Popescu & Asociatii involved in the matter?
Popescu: We were involved in this matter a few years ago, since the beginning of the dispute between the Administrative Territorial Unit Sinaia and the Ministry for Development, Public Works, and Administration, in the phase immediately following the initiation of the control action from the Direction of Project Implementation.
We assisted the client both in the pre-litigation stage, i.e. the administrative one, and in the litigious stage, by representing before the competent courts, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court of Cassation and Justice, that decided to maintain the financing contract and of course the implementation of the Park and Ride project.
CEELM: What was the most challenging aspect of the dispute?
Popescu: First of all, it is important to mention that this is the first filing won by a territorial administrative unit in Romania against the Ministry for Development, Public Works, and Administration.
There were more challenging aspects but, analyzing the file, I think the most challenging aspect was to convince the courts that the arguments invoked by the City of Sinaia were legal and correct to the detriment of those invoked by the Ministry. Since we had in our favor the correct interpretation of the provisions from the Applicant's Guide that regulates the necessary conditions to be fulfilled for a project regarding the construction of a Park & Ride parking lot to be eligible for obtaining European funds, the court granted us winning of the case and the solution was subsequently maintained as final by the court of appeal (The High Court of Cassation and Justice).
CEELM: What is next now, after the decision of the High Court of Cassation and Justice?
Popescu: We continue to assist Sinaia City Hall, which represents the leader of the consortium of the other territorial administrative units in the Valea Prahovei area.
It is important to highlight that this project is very important for Sinaia city, for the community, and tourists at the same time, as it would reduce both the traffic and pollution within the area, promoting also the clean public transport, riding bikes, and other environmentally friendly means of transport or just walking, to the detriment of using private cars.