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Postup dokumentu : O-0128/2006

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O-0128/2006 (B6-0450/2006)

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PV 01/02/2007 - 4
CRE 01/02/2007 - 4

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Rozpravy
Štvrtok, 1. februára 2007 - Brusel Revidované vydanie

4. Dohoda o verejnom obstarávaní (rozprava)
PV
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  President. The next item is oral question to the Commission on the renegotiation of the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) by Daniel Varela Suanzes-Carpegna, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade (O-0128/2006 – B6-0450/2006).

 
  
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  Daniel Varela Suanzes-Carpegna (PPE-DE), Autor. – Señora Presidenta, señor Comisario, queridos colegas, nuestra pregunta oral sobre el proceso de renegociación del acuerdo de contratación pública, que finalizará el próximo mes de marzo, se debe a que estamos en un momento clave. Además, teniendo en cuenta la importancia de dicho acuerdo y la vigencia del mismo, que será, de nuevo, de diez o doce años, se hacía necesario plantearlo aquí, en nuestro Parlamento, a la Comisión.

Los mercados de contratación pública están adquiriendo una importancia creciente en el mundo, por su volumen, que puede llegar hasta un 25 % del PIB mundial y, además, porque para la Unión Europea representan una ventaja comparativa, puesto que en este sector, en este momento, podemos ser competitivos, como digo, frente a otras competencias que estamos sufriendo de otros países en otros sectores, como pueden ser la agricultura y la industria. Por lo tanto, si queremos adaptarnos a la globalización, es importante desarrollar los sectores en los que la Unión Europea puede ser competitiva internacionalmente y, de este modo, crear unas condiciones justas y favorables a las empresas europeas.

Estos mercados se encuentran, en la mayor parte de los países, reservados a las empresas nacionales, lo que constituye una de las principales barreras no arancelarias al comercio internacional. Hay dos aspectos que destacaría especialmente en esta renegociación. En primer lugar, la ampliación geográfica de este acuerdo, con la entrada de importantes actores, como China o los países en desarrollo, y, en segundo lugar, la necesidad de asegurar que existan unas condiciones justas, equilibradas y recíprocas para las empresas de los diferentes países.

En lo que se refiere al primer punto, la validez de este acuerdo sobre contratación pública es tanto mayor cuanto mayor es su cobertura geográfica. Por ello, el Parlamento quiere saber si hay nuevos países interesados en adherirse al acuerdo a corto plazo y, particularmente, si podemos esperar compromisos sustanciales por parte de China en materia de apertura de sus mercados públicos. No olvidemos que China se comprometió a abrir su mercado de contratación pública –que en gran parte sigue cerrado, o con requisitos inaceptables para las empresas europeas– y a iniciar en 2008 negociaciones de adhesión al acuerdo sobre contratación pública, después de su adhesión a la Organización Mundial del Comercio.

En segundo lugar, por lo que se refiere a las condiciones justas y recíprocas, debemos recordar que los mercados públicos de la Unión Europea están ya muy abiertos a la competencia internacional. Esto tiene considerables ventajas para las entidades públicas que contratan, ya que esta apertura les supone una mayor posibilidad de elección y mayor posibilidad, por tanto, de encontrar bienes y servicios de mayor calidad a menor coste. Pero, por otro lado, no olvidemos que las empresas europeas pueden verse así perjudicadas en aquellos casos en los que son preferidas sus competidoras extranjeras.

El camino que la Unión tiene en su política comercial es el de una mayor apertura de los mercados internacionales en todos sus aspectos; por tanto, la solución no es la de cerrar los mercados públicos a las empresas exteriores. Precisamente por eso tenemos legítimo derecho a pedir que nuestras empresas disfruten de unas condiciones similares de acceso a los mercados públicos de nuestros principales socios comerciales, aquellos cuyas empresas disfrutan ya del acceso a nuestros mercados públicos. Sin embargo, actualmente éste no es el caso, siendo los compromisos adquiridos por nuestros socios comerciales muy limitados en comparación con los de la Unión Europea.

El Comisario Mandelson también se ha referido a este desequilibrio en su comunicación sobre la Europa competitiva en una economía globalizada. En ella sugiere la posibilidad de introducir restricciones concretas al acceso a ciertas partes de los mercados públicos de la Unión, con el fin de que nuestros socios comerciales ofrezcan una apertura recíproca de sus mercados.

Dicho todo esto, considero oportuna —y más que apropiada, por tanto— la presentación de esta pregunta oral en nombre de la Comisión de Comercio Internacional a la Comisión Europea para que nos concrete cuál es su estrategia en esta renegociación del acuerdo, en la que —insisto— estamos en un momento clave, por la necesidad de llegar a un acuerdo en las próximas semanas.

¿Cómo va la Comisión a defender los intereses de las empresas europeas en los mercados de sectores en los que somos altamente competitivos, como los transportes, la energía o las obras públicas, dentro del objetivo de continuar en la senda de una mayor apertura comercial, y no a la inversa? Y, en este mismo contexto, ¿cómo se va a considerar la situación de las PYME europeas, ya de por sí en desventaja con las grandes empresas, en relación con la situación que tienen otras PYME en otros países cuyos Gobiernos les reservan una parte de sus contratos públicos, como ocurre en los Estados Unidos?

Dada la falta de reciprocidad, la situación desventajosa para las PYME europeas y la importancia que éstas tienen en los principales objetivos de la llamada Estrategia de Lisboa, pedimos que la Comisión exija a las otras partes de la negociación que renuncien a sus propias excepciones o, si ello no es posible, que acepten que apliquemos una excepción del mismo tipo a beneficio de las PYME europeas. En cualquier caso, que alcancemos esa reciprocidad que, en estos momentos, juega en contra de las empresas europeas.

Pido, por tanto, a la Comisión, que nos informe del estado de estas negociaciones, especialmente en los asuntos que he destacado y a los que se refiere el texto de nuestra pregunta; y también que la Comisión tome nota de las preocupaciones expresadas por el Parlamento Europeo y las tenga en cuenta en sus negociaciones en Ginebra.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Madam President, the issue of the renegotiation of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, known as the GPA, is important for Europe as it should provide our companies with future opportunities outside the Community. Last December, after many years of long and difficult negotiations, the GPA parties reached a provisional understanding on a new revised text. I consider this to be a major achievement in the current context of the Doha Round. It demonstrates that the political will to reach an understanding on sensitive issues remains alive.

The new text provides for more clarity and transparency, as well as better guarantees for equal treatment in the procurement procedures. It includes, for the first time, provisions for conducting electronic procurement.

The European Community played an important role during the negotiations. The existing agreement is unbalanced, both in terms of procedural guarantees and coverage. Our main objectives were to fill the gaps and to eliminate ambiguities.

We wanted to obtain better legal guarantees for our suppliers, similar to those offered by our internal regime. At the same time we sought to make the new agreement more attractive for developing countries via new specific measures. The final agreement on the new text is subject to a satisfactory outcome of the market access negotiations which are ongoing. Here as well, we need to rebalance the situation in favour of the Community. Hence the coverage our partners currently offer should be extended to the level the Community has offered and it should be more uniform.

We all want to see improved access for our companies to foreign countries’ procurement markets. The Council emphasised in its recent conclusions on the Commission’s communication ‘Global Europe – Competing in the World’ that we need to achieve additional improvements in market access with our future major trading partners, namely in public procurement.

The Community has submitted a comprehensive request and offer which will give the other GPA parties all the necessary incentives to offer significant additional procurement opportunities. Should we fail to get a substantial improvement from other GPA parties, we will consider taking the necessary measures to adapt the Community commitments in the new GPA accordingly.

In the absence of improved access for the EU to third-country procurement markets, Commissioner Mandelson and I are reflecting on a market-opening instrument to enhance EU access.

The case of our SMEs certainly deserves particular attention. It will specifically benefit from the new text, with the introduction of rules on electronic procurement and, if negotiations are completed successfully, the lowering of thresholds of some parties. However, let me remind you that the agreement deals with rather large procurement contracts which are mainly undertaken by big companies. SMEs certainly have an important role to play, but mostly as subcontractors. This is why we have asked our GPA partners who currently maintain specific derogations for their domestic SMEs to abandon them.

On the prospects of extending the geographical scope of the agreement, eight WTO members are in the process of acceding to it. Among those, Jordan is the most advanced. China has indicated that it will start accession negotiations by December this year and, following my visit there last year, we are already preparing this important accession. As already mentioned, the Community has pushed for better provisions on the special and differential treatment for developing countries. I believe we have achieved a good result with tailor-made new rules that fully take their specific needs into account.

I am confident that if we succeed, this new agreement will constitute a milestone for international trade and create new opportunities for our companies.

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy, au nom du groupe PPE-DE. – Madame la Présidente, Monsieur le Commissaire, chers collègues, mes premiers mots seront pour féliciter Daniel Varela, mon excellent collègue, pour le remercier d'avoir posé, au nom de la commission du commerce international, cette question orale relative aux négociations en cours à l'Organisation mondiale du commerce sur les règles de l'accès à la commande publique. Il faut, Monsieur le Commissaire, obtenir des dérogations pour les petites et moyennes entreprises.

Le sujet qui nous réunit aujourd'hui est un enjeu crucial pour la croissance et l'emploi en Europe. Les règles de l'OMC relatives au commerce des marchandises et des services ne s'appliquent pas aux achats effectués par un État pour son propre usage, c'est-à-dire aux marchés publics. C'est la raison pour laquelle, en marge des accords de Marrakech d'avril 1994, certains pays ont, sur une base volontaire, signé une annexe particulière contenant un accord sur les marchés publics. Tous les grands pays qui participent à cet accord - le Canada, la Corée, les États-Unis, le Japon -, à l'exception de l'Union européenne, ont exclu de leur offre les marchés qu'ils réservent à leurs PME. Ce déséquilibre est inacceptable et les marchés ainsi exclus sont précisément ceux qui intéressent nos petites et moyennes entreprises, alors que les PME de ces pays ont accès sans restriction à tous nos marchés publics.

Nos PME sont ainsi sous-représentées eu égard aux marchés publics et nous devons lancer un vaste débat sur les origines de cette sous-représentation. Il faut remédier à ce déséquilibre en obtenant une dérogation en faveur des PME européennes en ce qui concerne la commande publique. Nous ne pouvons pas accepter de telles distorsions.

Chers collègues, Monsieur le Commissaire, au-delà de cette négociation, ce qui est en jeu c'est la volonté de l'Union européenne d'offrir aux petites et moyennes entreprises l'environnement favorable dont elles ont besoin et d'utiliser l'accès aux marchés publics comme un formidable levier pour la croissance et l'emploi; est en jeu également la nécessité d'assurer, au sein de l'Union européenne, la sécurité juridique entre l'ordre juridique mondial, le droit européen et les droits nationaux. Il ne s'agit pas de protectionnisme, bien au contraire, il s'agit d'augmenter l'offre en ayant davantage d'entreprises pour les donneurs d'ordres.

Monsieur le Commissaire, aujourd'hui sur la planète, il y a trois espaces: l'Asie hors Japon, pays pauvres-croissance forte; les États-Unis, pays riche-croissance forte et l'Europe, pays riches-croissance faible. Nous devons nous interroger. Au moment où nous avons réglementé le marché intérieur en votant la directive sur les services, nous avons bâti ce marché intérieur sur les lois de la concurrence et l'Union européenne s'est beaucoup intéressée aux consommateurs. Il faut, aujourd'hui, s'intéresser à nos producteurs. La renégociation actuellement en cours à l'OMC de l'accord multilatéral sur les marchés publics nous semble une formidable opportunité pour agir et réfléchir sur la place des PME concernant l'accès aux marchés publics.

Nous devons, Monsieur le Commissaire, apporter au marché intérieur la bonne nouvelle d'un Small Business Act européen avec la logique de l'économie sociale de marché. Le débat est ouvert et je m'en félicite.

 
  
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  Erika Mann, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Madam President, it is a pleasure to see you in the Chair.

What is interesting and fascinating about this debate is that we are talking about a plurilateral agreement that is very specific in character. It is, of course, part of the multilateral framework but, as it is plurilateral in character, it allows much more flexibility for those Member States that are part of this agreement.

With regard to this, and as it is its tenth anniversary, could the Commissioner tell us a little bit about it: how it worked in the past, whether he is satisfied with it and thinks it is a worthwhile undertaking that is worth renegotiating. It is not part of his portfolio, but does he consider that it is also worthwhile renegotiating the telecoms agreement, which is also ten years old this year?

With regard to the agreement on government procurement – which Mr Audy mentioned – we are very concerned about SMEs, because we know by experience that they are definitely having much more difficulty in accessing international markets. What is the Commission going to do about it beyond what has been done in the past?

China is of great concern. We are happy to have China as part of the global environment, but it puts a lot of pressure on some companies. So once China becomes a member of the plurilateral agreement, what safeguards will the Commissioner put in place to safeguard the interests of European companies and workers? How much is this exercise part of global Europe? How much is it related to the new approach from the Commission agreeing on different bilateral agreements and what will be part of this connection?

With regard to services of general interest, how, again, will the Commissioner ensure that European interests will be safeguarded? Can the Commissioner tell us more about that? He has not touched on that.

Finally, can the Commissioner ensure that Parliament will be kept informed? Can he promise that the Committee on International Trade, which has just elected its new chairman this morning, will also be kept informed?

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki, w imieniu grupy UEN. – Pani Przewodnicząca! Słusznie podnosimy dzisiaj konieczność większej liberalizacji rynku zamówień publicznych. Szkoda, że tej determinacji zabrakło naszemu Parlamentowi, gdy mówiliśmy o liberalizacji usług na naszym kontynencie. W gruncie rzeczy jest to bowiem ta sama sprawa. Dobrze, że mówimy o poszerzeniu geograficznym umowy GPA. Szkoda, że kilka miesięcy temu nie skorzystaliśmy z szansy istotnego pogłębienia rynku usług u nas.

A przecież chodzi w obu przypadkach o lepsze funkcjonowanie nie tylko wielkich, ale może zwłaszcza małych i średnich firm w Europie. Popieram takie negocjacje umowy, które zapewnią nam udział w rynku zamówień publicznych Chin, ale pamiętajmy również o realnych możliwościach partycypowania w rynku europejskim dla drugiej strony, o czym mówiła przed chwilą pani Mann. Dla partnerów chińskich ten medal ma bowiem dwie strony i wydaje mi się, że powinniśmy zwrócić uwagę również na swoiste wyzwania, które w tym kontekście istnieją dla rynku europejskiego.

 
  
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  Caroline Lucas, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, congratulations! It is very good to see you in the Chair.

Commissioner McCreevy, I too should like to start off by talking about how best we support small and medium-sized enterprises. I am very pleased that there seems to be a concern right across the different political groups of this House. I think we all share that.

I would like to ask first of all for some clarification of remarks made by the French Trade Minister, Christine Lagarde, when she came to Parliament’s Committee on International Trade just last week. She spoke very passionately and rightly, I believe, about the importance of defending small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe. And yet you, Commissioner, seem to have a very different view of the role of SMEs and how best to support them.

Guaranteeing better access to public procurement contracts for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises is essential. They represent 75 million jobs in the Union and 50% of Community GNI, and they are a vital component of thriving local and regional economies all around the EU.

But it seems that the Commission is voluntarily giving up the right to support its SMEs. There are already five countries– Canada, the US, Israel, Japan and South Korea – that will introduce provisions into their legislation which give privileged access to SMEs for public procurement, and yet the EU, bizarrely, has decided it has no interest in standing up for its own SMEs.

So Commissioner, can you really justify this position? For the EU to forego the right to a level playing field which would allow SMEs to have an equal opportunity to compete like the large multinationals seems both extraordinary and indeed unacceptable. Surely we too should be using the renegotiation of the GPA in Geneva to break down the WTO barriers which prevent Member States from implementing a privileged access measure for SMEs should they so wish. We too should be arguing for derogations as part of the revised GPA to allow us to bring in preferential measures, and by doing this we are simply restoring equality of treatment in order to prevent the large multinational corporations from having all of the advantages.

I very much regret as well that we have not had the opportunity for a prior debate really in Europe about whether it is appropriate to try to extend international trade rules to cover government procurement at all. Many would argue that government procurement has little or nothing to do with traditional matters of trade, tariffs and quotas, and that it is an unacceptable area for negotiations at the WTO, because subjecting government procurement at the national, local or regional level to one-size-fits-all rules at a global level on how taxpayers’ funds are spent I think destroys citizens’ reasonable expectations that they should have a level of democratic accountability over how their money is spent. Essentially, taxpayers’ money is different from private, corporate money, and citizens rightly expect that they should have the right, for example, to lobby to cut off expenditure on companies that were doing business in South Africa when there was apartheid, or to disqualify companies with bad labour or environmental records.

I believe we have a really important role to play in defending local sourcing and procurement as a vital instrument of local employment and industrial policy.

 
  
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  Helmuth Markov, im Namen der GUE/NGL-Fraktion. – Frau Präsidentin — herzlichen Glückwunsch zur Wahl —, Herr Kommissar! Das Übereinkommen über das öffentliche Beschaffungswesen ist bislang auf die OECD-Staaten begrenzt. Die Staatsausgaben für öffentliche Liefer-, Dienstleistungs- und Bauaufträge machen etwa 10-25 % des Bruttoinlandsprodukts aus.

China hat in der Zwischenzeit Überlegungen über einen möglichen Beitritt angestellt. Die aktuellen Neuverhandlungen zielen insgesamt auf eine Ausweitung des Geltungsbereichs, und das würde die Bedeutung dieses Vertrags in den internationalen Austauschbeziehungen von Waren und Dienstleistungen natürlich noch enorm steigern.

Im Revisionsprozess sollte die Kommission durchaus auf größere Transparenz und die Bekämpfung von Korruption bei internationalen Ausschreibungen im öffentlichen Beschaffungswesen setzen. Aber angesichts der dringenden Herausforderungen im Umweltbereich muss ökologischer Nachhaltigkeit im öffentlichen Sektor ein hoher Stellenwert eingeräumt werden. Und das heißt nach meinem Verständnis eben auch, dass diesbezüglich Regulierungen notwendig sind. Es muss beispielsweise legal und legitim sein, bei staatlichen Aufträgen umweltfreundliche Güter und Dienstleistungen zu bevorzugen, selbst wenn der Preis minimal höher liegt.

Eine entscheidende Frage ist der Umgang mit Entwicklungsländern. Es ist sicherzustellen, dass das öffentliche Beschaffungswesen ebenso wie die anderen Singapur-Themen absolut unabhängig von den aktuellen Verhandlungen der Doha-Entwicklungsrunde behandelt werden, so wie es die Entwicklungsländer in Cancún auch sehr deutlich artikuliert haben.

Das neu auszuhandelnde Dokument, über das wir hier reden, kann eigentlich nur für Partner vergleichbarer Stärke gelten. In diesem Sinne halte ich den Begriff der Nichtdiskriminierung bzw. der Gegenseitigkeit für problematisch. Mir scheint es hier einmal mehr darauf hinauszulaufen, dass hochindustrialisierte Länder und Entwicklungsländer von der Herangehensweise her gleichgestellt werden, und das kann nicht funktionieren.

Die vorgeschlagenen Bestimmungen für Entwicklungsländer, einschließlich der drei- bzw. — für LDC — fünfjährigen Übergangsperiode, sind völlig unzureichend, um sie davon zu überzeugen, sich dem Vertrag anzuschließen. Ich glaube, dass es dadurch leider dazu kommen wird, dass viele dieser Länder diesem Abkommen fernbleiben, was ich aus prinzipiellen Erwägungen für eine plurilaterale Herangehensweise schade finde.

 
  
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  Graham Booth, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, the debate we are having about this oral question epitomises so much of what is wrong with the European Union. Firstly, we have to deal with the WTO through one man who represents no less than 27 nations. He has no popular mandate and in the light of his record in British politics would not have been chosen to run a village fête. I do not want an EU representative to speak for my country at the WTO. I want a representative of Her Majesty’s Government who not only knows my country but cares for it too.

Then there is the whole issue of competitive tendering. China was mentioned as a potential provider in the oral question and it may well be highly competitive. Whilst I condemn the suppression of individual freedoms and rights in China, the Chinese know a few things about running a successful economy. Government spending is only some 20% of GDP, whereas in the eurozone it was 47.5% in 2005. In China, business runs with a light regulatory touch. In the European Union, we are regulating ourselves to death.

In 2005 Mr Blair promised that the British Presidency would cut red tape. It did nothing of the sort. How many thousands of pages did it add to the mountain of legislation? My country was hoodwinked into joining the European Union in 1973 on the basis of it being just a free trade area. This is all it should be: no Parliament, no Commission, no directives. Instead it has become a bureaucratic monster which is wrecking our economy.

 
  
  

PRESIDENCIA DEL SR. D. MIGUEL ANGEL MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ
Vicepresidente

 
  
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  Γεώργιος Παπαστάμκος (PPE-DE). – Κύριε Πρόεδρε, έχει επιτευχθεί ήδη προσωρινή συμφωνία ως προς το αναθεωρημένο κείμενο της συμφωνίας για τις δημόσιες συμβάσεις ενώ αναμένεται και η επίτευξη της τελικής συμφωνίας.

Σέβομαι την ανάγκη μυστικής διεξαγωγής των διαπραγματεύσεων, ωστόσο δεν θεωρείτε, κύριε Επίτροπε, ότι καθυστερημένα ενημερώνετε το Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο για τις προτεραιότητες, τα αιτήματα και τις προσφορές της Ένωσης κατά την επαναδιαπραγμάτευση της σημαντικής αυτής συμφωνίας;

Θεωρώ ότι η βασική διαπραγματευτική αρχή για την Ένωση πρέπει να είναι η αμοιβαιότητα και η επίτευξη ισόρροπου αποτελέσματος μεταξύ των εμπορικών εταίρων. Το ισόρροπο μάλιστα αποτέλεσμα δεν πρέπει να είναι σε επίπεδο θεωρητικών δεσμεύσεων μεταξύ των εμπορικών εταίρων, εκ μέρους των άλλων εταίρων. Οφείλει να αξιολογείται σε επίπεδο πραγματικών δυνατοτήτων αξιοποίησης του όγκου των προκηρύξεων που υπάγονται σε διασυνοριακό ανταγωνισμό. Έχει εκπονήσει η Επιτροπή μελέτες σχετικά με την πραγματική πρόσβαση των ευρωπαϊκών επιχειρήσεων στην αγορά των λοιπών κρατών από την έως τώρα εφαρμογή της συμφωνίας; Οι ΗΠΑ, ο Καναδάς, η Νότιος Κορέα και η Ιαπωνία -συμβαλλόμενα μέρη στη συμφωνία- έχουν ήδη μεριμνήσει για την προνομιακή πρόσβαση των μικρομεσαίων επιχειρήσεων στην αγορά δημοσίων συμβάσεων. Παραδόξως όμως, η Ένωση όχι.

Θεωρώ ότι η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση θα πρέπει να ζητήσει εξαίρεση στο πλαίσιο εφαρμογής της συμφωνίας για τις δημόσιες συμβάσεις υπέρ των μικρομεσαίων επιχειρήσεων. Το αίτημα είναι εύλογο, πολύ περισσότερο που το έχουν πράξει ήδη οι εταίροι μας.

Οι μικρομεσαίες επιχειρήσεις αποτελούν βασική συνιστώσα της ευρωπαϊκής οικονομίας. Σημαντική πηγή ανάπτυξης και απασχόλησης. Το τόνισαν και ο κ. Varela, ο εισηγητής και ο κ. Audy. Συμβάλλουν στην οικονομική και κοινωνική συνοχή. Έχουμε υποχρέωση να αναλάβουμε τις πρωτοβουλίες εκείνες που θα διασφαλίσουν τον δυναμικό τους ρόλο.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE). – Mr President, I should like to congratulate you on your appointment.

I am not going to speak about SMEs because many of my colleagues have already done so, but I want to emphasise and agree with them that this is an extremely important issue.

Government procurement accounts for 20% of GDP in developing countries and around 15% of GDP in developed countries. I feel a little bit Janus-faced on this issue, because intuitively I am in favour of opening up public procurement to competition. It should in theory reduce government costs and increase transparency in government procurement and therefore cut out corruption. That should bring benefits both to the developed and the developing world and, in the developing world, would free up resources for health and education. However, if you look at the list of those who have signed up for GPA, there is not a single African country among the 36. It is clear that the African countries and other LDCs feel that the costs potentially outweigh the benefits of signing up to this agreement.

I would ask the Commission what support could it plan to give, firstly, African and other LDC countries to enable them to compete in the European market and the other developed markets on a fair footing and what assistance can they be given to develop their own industry so that they can sustain competition inside their own country if they sign up for opening of the government procurement contracts.

I also worry, as Mrs Lucas has indicated in a slightly different way, how non-trade issues will be taken into account in GPA and the application of GPA, how issues like the environment, human rights and labour rights will be taken into account. I agree with Mrs Lucas that this is public money and that there is a danger, if we simply have GPA without any conditions, that labour and environmental standards could be driven down. On the one hand I can see the advantage of opening up public procurement, but it is fraught with dangers and I hope the Commission will examine these issues.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I should like to congratulate you once again, and to thank the Commissioner.

In Britain, SMEs are unfairly shut out of public procurement due to well-meaning requirements such as corporate social responsibility and environmental standards; quite often a requirement for three years of audited accounts, which many small businesses cannot meet; a lack of competitive tendering; the bundling of contracts that become too big for SMEs and favour the large companies; and secrecy and a lack of transparency.

We know that the EU directive requires transparency and competitive tendering, but most contracts that SMEs bid for are quite often below the threshold. So when you speak to SMEs and ask them what they want to see, they say they want to see a cut in bureaucracy and paperwork. They want to see authorities avoiding the one-size-fits-all requirement for certification. They want to see contracts advertised on websites such as ‘supply2.gov’, and they also want to see unbundled contracts. But we have to recognise that government departments are not commercial organisations and will often want to seek to avoid the extra work involved in multiple tenders, so we therefore need to provide incentives for governments and local government.

In America, targets have been provided as to whether fair competition actually does or does not exist. SMEs do not require quotas, but they need a performance metric to see whether there is fair competition. Also in America there are small SME advisers helping the government to enable SMEs to have fair access. These requirements – benchmarks and competition advocates – would probably not be allowed under the WTO agreement, and I understand the reason, but it does unintentionally forbid measures which ensure fair competition.

The WTO agreement is actually generally positive, as it is anti-protectionist, but it forbids measures which are needed to help small businesses. So while some Member States want an opt-out, others rightly fear that this would increase protectionism. Therefore, let us call on the Commission to seek a compromise whereby an opt-out is secured, but a new agreement is drafted to allow SME-friendly measures and to greatly extend anti-protectionist measures. If we allow SME-friendly measures, the agreement would remove America’s reasons for its opt-out, which has been used to retain the Buy America Act. It would also help British and European SMEs to compete globally.

 
  
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  Margrietus van den Berg (PSE). – Voorzitter, een akkoord publieke aanbesteding overheidsopdrachten kan betekenen meer transparantie en dus minder corruptie. Het kan betekenen: eerlijke prijzen - niet onbelangrijk aangezien het hier gaat om overheidsopdrachten met belastinggeld - maar dan wel graag met het recht op sociale en ecologische criteria bij de aanbestedingen. Ontwikkelingslanden zouden ook geweldig kunnen profiteren van al deze voordelen. Hun deelname in de internationale overeenkomst voor overheidsopdrachten in de toekomst is uiteraard niet uit te sluiten, maar de Commissie zou moeten bevorderen dat ze deze aanpak - en hetzelfde geldt voor eerlijke mededingingsregels - eerst nationaal of regionaal mogen uitvoeren, net zoals wij dat in Europa hebben gedaan en dus niet onmiddellijk de hele wereld en de grote monopolies hoeven toe te laten. Het zou dan aan de ontwikkelingslanden moeten zijn om te bepalen, wanneer ze zich sterk genoeg ontwikkeld voelen. Wat overal ter wereld overigens voor iedereen geldt, Voorzitter, is dat er geen sprake mag zijn van gedwongen grootschalige aanbestedingen waardoor het midden- en kleinbedrijf buiten spel wordt gezet. Helaas heb ik een voorbeeld daarvan zelf mogen aanschouwen bij een treinstation in Amsterdam, waar voor het station de veiligheidsdienst werd aanbesteed. Het bedrijf dat voorheen verantwoordelijk was voor de veiligheid op het station was een klein bedrijfje en deed dat met groot succes; bij de aanbesteding bleek dat bedrijf echter te klein om mee te dingen voor de totale opdracht op heel veel van die stations en lag er daarmee uit.

Ik twijfel er niet aan dat mijn collega's soortgelijke voorbeelden zijn tegengekomen. Daarom stellen we de Commissie de vraag hoe het MKB betere toegang tot aanbestedingsopdrachten kan worden gegarandeerd.

Tot slot is het gedwongen openbreken van de nationale publieke en semi-publieke voorzieningen voor grote buitenlandse aanbieders uit den boze. Ieder land heeft het recht publiek te regelen wat het graag publiek wil houden. Het gaat hier om basisvoorzieningen, zoals bijvoorbeeld onderwijs en water, voorzieningen die de kern van de samenleving vormen en daar mag niet aan worden getornd.

 
  
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  Andreas Schwab (PPE-DE). – Herr Präsident, lieber Kommissar McCreevy, sehr geehrte Kolleginnen und Kollegen! Die Anfrage des Außenhandelsausschusses zur Problematik der Vergaben auf WTO-Ebene hat auch direkte Auswirkungen auf den europäischen Binnenmarkt. Deswegen glaube ich, dass wir uns die Auswirkungen auf den europäischen Binnenmarkt bei dieser Frage genauer ansehen müssen. Natürlich geht es auf der einen Seite um das Welthandelsabkommen, aber auf der anderen Seite müssen wir auch sehen, dass diese Verträge auf internationaler Ebene direkte Auswirkungen — so ist es eben mit der Globalisierung — auf den europäischen Binnenmarkt hat.

Kollege Kamall hat darauf hingewiesen, dass in einigen Mitgliedstaaten der WTO, wie beispielsweise den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, schon heute bei der nationalen Vergabe an kleine und mittlere Unternehmen bestimmte Quoten einzuhalten sind. Das bedeutet letztlich nichts anderes, als dass der Anwendungsbereich der von der WTO vorgeschriebenen Vergaberegelung eingeschränkt wird. Ob dies kleinen und mittleren Unternehmen auf Dauer nützt, darüber würde ich mir eine Folgenabschätzung wünschen. Das ist jedenfalls nicht sichergestellt.

Solange wir das nicht sicher wissen, brauchen wir uns über eine Einschränkung des Anwendungsbereichs keine Gedanken zu machen. Denn kleine und mittlere Unternehmen leben natürlich davon, dass der Markt möglichst transparent und für sie möglichst erreichbar ist, und wenn die Mitgliedstaaten der WTO den Anwendungsbereich schon einmal um ein Viertel einschränken, dann weiß ich nicht, ob kleine und mittlere Unternehmen wirklich davon profitieren.

Es wäre sicherlich wertvoll — und insofern unterstütze ich diese Anfrage auch —, wenn die Kommission dies einmal eingehend prüfen und uns zeigen könnte, ob sich dies für kleine und mittlere Unternehmen positiv auswirkt.

Im Rat — leider ist jetzt gerade keiner seiner Vertreter anwesend — muss natürlich ein Gleichgewicht gefunden werden zwischen jenen, die gerne so einen Ansatz hätten wie in den USA, und jenen, die gerade das Gegenteil wollen, nämlich dass diese Quoten heruntergeführt werden, damit wir in der gesamten WTO einen freien und offenen Markt haben, so dass kleine und mittlere Unternehmen eben überall zum Zuge kommen können.

Deswegen glaube ich, dass das entscheidende Problem für kleine und mittlere Unternehmen in diesem Zusammenhang eher darin liegt, dass wir die Frage der Subunternehmerproblematik noch nicht wirklich im Griff haben. Denn oft ist es ja so, dass kleine und mittlere Unternehmen als Subunternehmer benutzt werden und so auch Arbeitsplätze schaffen können und Verdienstmöglichkeiten haben, aber dass letztlich die Steuerung von höherer Ebene kommt und kleine und mittlere Unternehmen da oft in einer schwierigen Zwitterstellung sind.

Aus meiner Sicht sollten wir uns vor allem mit dieser Problematik näher befassen, und deshalb würde es mich freuen, wenn die Kommission sich dazu Gedanken macht und uns auf dem Laufenden hält. Sie sollte also zunächst einmal die Problematik, die in dieser Anfrage dargestellt wird, bearbeiten, bevor wir uns mit konkreten Forderungen an den Kommissar wenden.

 
  
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  Stefano Zappalà (PPE-DE). – Signor Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, mi congratulo con il collega Varela Suanzes-Carpegna e lo ringrazio per aver presentato la sua interrogazione, che ci dato modo di affrontare il tema in questione. Io sono stato relatore in questo Parlamento sulla riforma degli appalti, forniture e servizi, nella fattispecie le direttive 17 e 18.

Anche se il tempo è brevissimo, credo sia opportuno ricordare i termini del problema. Nella direttiva 18, ossia la direttiva generale sugli appalti, come ho sentito da alcuni interventi stamattina, il Parlamento ha tenuto in grande considerazione i problemi ambientali, il sistema ammodernato degli appalti per via elettronica, il mondo del sociale, la questione delle soglie e credo quindi che disponiamo di una normativa che è certamente eccezionale, ma che in ogni caso non riguarda l'argomento di questa mattina.

Il problema sollevato è completamente diverso: è in corso la revisione di un negoziato internazionale che vede i paesi dell'Unione europea – e quindi le imprese dell'Unione europea – svantaggiati rispetto ad altri. Qual è il problema? Nel 1994 e negli anni successivi, in campo internazionale, mediante accordi plurilaterali, furono previsti ben altri tipi di attività. Gli Stati Uniti, la Cina e altri paesi godono in realtà di privilegi di cui non godono le imprese dell'Unione europea. Oggi questo sistema è oggetto di una revisione ma occorre stabilirne le modalità di revisione, perché i soli Stati Uniti d'America – lo rammento a me stesso ma anche ai colleghi – svolgono un'attività produttiva che sfiora i 200 miliardi di dollari l'anno, una somma che però resta all'interno degli Stati Uniti.

Il punto è che, mentre tutti possono venire a lavorare in Europa, le nostre piccole e medie imprese non possono andare a lavorare nel resto del mondo. Gli accordi del GPA (Government Procurement Agreement) sono, tra gli altri, accordi che prevedono l'esclusione dell'accesso delle imprese europee all'interno del sistema internazionale.

Quale scelta è dunque possibile oggi? Per quanto mi risulta, la Commissione ritiene che, abolendo i privilegi degli altri, si possa competere nuovamente in un sistema di parità. Non è così. Io credo che sia invece necessario proteggere le piccole e medie imprese europee, assicurando loro all'interno dell'Unione europea, e quindi nei confronti dell'Unione europea, gli stessi privilegi di cui oggi godono le piccole e medie imprese degli Stati Uniti e di altri paesi del mondo.

Pertanto, non solo ringrazio il collega Varela Suanzes-Carpegna, ma sono dell'avviso che la tesi sostenuta dalla Francia in questo momento in seno al Consiglio sia sicuramente da favorire e da agevolare rispetto alla posizione della Commissione europea.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to thank all Members for their comments.

I attach the utmost importance to public procurement. Proper, fair and transparent procedures are crucial not only for businesses that want to bid for projects but also for authorities that would be able to save themselves and taxpayers huge amounts of money if they applied the procedures properly.

Getting commitments from our trading partners to open their procurement market for European bidders is essential. Our companies have something to offer. They are competitive, but too often they are simply not allowed or invited to make a bid.

SMEs benefit from public procurement. They already have a big share of the market, but I do not think that setting aside quotas or giving preferential treatment is the answer. If we were to do that, so would more of our trading partners and the result would be that European companies would lose out. I believe that all sides are best served by open markets. Our SMEs are dynamic and strong. They will benefit as well.

Mrs Mann asked to be kept informed. I shall ask my officials to keep her committee closely informed. They will attend meetings of the committee and will answer your questions about the details of the negotiations.

Various Members referred to special arrangements for SMEs and that this should be part of our negotiating stance. As I have said, I do not agree. I agree with a lot of what Mr Kamall said, and his observation that Member States themselves could do a lot to assist their SMEs in the area of public procurement without contravening any rules at all. If they unbundled some of their contracts and cut out a lot of the bureaucracy, that would benefit SMEs substantially, and would not require the setting-aside of quotas. Where I would disagree is with the conclusion drawn by some people that the way to do this better for SMEs is to set aside quotas.

Mr Kamall also raised the issue of the United States having a Small Business Act and an agency to deal with these matters. However, the figures show that, either in volume or in quantity terms, SMEs in Europe get a far higher percentage of contracts than they do in the United States. That should be of some interest to people.

Therefore, I say – and people are entitled to disagree with my views on this – that public procurement is all about competing: the best goods and services for the lowest amount. That means value for money. Reserving parts of the market underlines this. We were also discussing SMEs in an earlier debate this morning. Members said that SMEs need opportunities. I certainly agree. However, protectionism is not the answer. But, of course, we will not be naive: we expect our trading partners to open their markets as well.

 
  
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  El Presidente. Vamos a suspender la sesión para reanudarla a las 11.00 horas con la sesión solemne, en que recibiremos al presidente de Bulgaria.

(La sesión, suspendida a las 10.25 horas, se reanuda a las 11.00 horas)

 
  
  

VORSITZ: HANS-GERT POETTERING
Präsident

 
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