In its ruling dated 17 October 2023, the Conseil d’État dismissed the appeal lodged by Ryanair and Airport Marketing Services (the “Appellants”) against the decision of the Bordeaux Administrative Court of Appeal of 29 March 20221. The Appellants were seeking the annulment of the Poitiers Administrative Court’s ruling of 15 December 2020, which had rejected their application for the recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards rendered in 2011 and 2012 by the LCIA in their dispute against the Syndicat mixte des aéroports de Charente (“SMAC”).
The Conseil d’État confirmed the previous courts’ position that the forced enforcement of an arbitration award involving a French public legal entity and a foreign legal entity cannot be authorised if it is contrary to public policy. It recalled that legal entities governed by public law in France may not derogate from the rules governing the jurisdiction of national courts by resorting to arbitration, unless otherwise provided by national legislation or an international agreement.
The Conseil d’État also examined the provisions of the 1958 New York Convention and the 1961 European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, and concluded that the dispute was not arbitrable. It rejected the Appellants’ argument that the contract that French public entity would have entered into for international purposes justified derogating from the principle that public entities are prohibited from resorting to arbitration.
Finally, the Conseil d’État ruled that the arbitration agreement concluded between SMAC and the Appellants did not fall within the scope of the European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, since the Appellants had their registered offices in Ireland, which is not a party to that convention.
As a result, the Conseil d’État dismissed the appeal lodged by the Appellants and ordered each of them to pay the SMAC the sum of 1,500 euros under article L. 761-1 of the Code of Administrative Justice.