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Procedure : 2011/2048(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0326/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0326/2011

Debates :

PV 24/10/2011 - 14
CRE 24/10/2011 - 14

Votes :

PV 25/10/2011 - 8.10
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0454

Debates
Monday, 24 October 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14. Modernisation of public procurement (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Heide Rühle, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on modernisation of public procurement (2011/2048(INI)) (A7-0326/2011).

 
  
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  Heide Rühle, rapporteur. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, this evening, I would like to thank you all for your positive and trusting cooperation in recent weeks.

Public procurement is a complex subject; unfortunately, it is also characterised by many conflicting interests. I feel that this makes it all the more important for Parliament to show a united front on this. That can only be done by making compromises, with each group gaining something and losing something. The unanimous vote in committee sent out an important signal. I hope that this compromise will stand firm in the vote tomorrow, but I am also quite optimistic.

What is it that we want to achieve together? On the one hand, it is a matter of careful reform of the rules on procurement. We need to keep what has proven its worth, such as the classification into A and B service categories and the separation into two directives; but where there has been a lack of legal certainty, we need to improve that. After all, we are all aware that public procurement was one of the major sources of error in the area of the Structural Funds. That is why it is important to have some clear definitions in this area and to define the scope clearly.

A further focal point will be simplification of the procurement directives and making them more flexible. At a time of such deep economic crisis, we have particular need of clear, simple rules. Only then can public procurement be a motor for sustainable development and innovation.

The contracting authorities have a particular role to play in this crisis. Public procurement accounts for 17% of gross domestic product. This means that we can use public procurement to steer development towards sustainable products, taking into account life-cycle costs, and we can foster more innovative development. We do not necessarily want the cheapest; what we want is the most economically advantageous offer, and we certainly want an offer that includes the entire life-cycle costs of the goods, services and works.

A further point that we focused on in committee is improving access for small and medium-sized enterprises. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the European economy, and it is important that they have easier and better access to public procurement. We want to lower their transaction costs, we want to allow contracts to be divided into lots and promote this to a greater extent. We want to simplify and facilitate the administration involved by using prequalification systems or electronic passports.

Another focal area will be the strengthening of electronic procurement or e-procurement, because e-procurement will enable costs to be reduced and the whole process to be speeded up. E-procurement can also be used to increase the transparency of the whole procedure.

Nonetheless, it is important for Parliament to point out that this legislation is only the first step. What we need in the area of public procurement is greater professionalism on both sides – both among the contracting authorities and among small and medium-sized enterprises, for example. We want an exchange of best practice models, we want more training programmes, but, of course, we also want to make it possible and easier for people to deal with public procurement by focusing on aspects such as standardisation.

I hope this report will receive your support tomorrow. Obviously, there are some minor improvements that can be made, and we will debate these today. There are one or two things that can no doubt be improved, but the general line and the compromises should stand firm in the vote tomorrow. This Parliament will then be able to have an influence on the revision of the public procurement directives.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) Madam President, honourable Members, I wish to offer my very sincere thanks to Ms Rühle and the members of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection for this report, which is an important contribution. You said, ‘I hope that we will have a tool’. I note, for my part – not least because I have participated in your debates ever since I became a Commissioner – that Parliament has a genuine tool at its disposal in many areas, and we – I, in the work I have been doing over the last few weeks to modernise European public procurement – certainly regard this report as a crucial contribution; what you have written and what you have said together will be extremely useful.

Public procurement accounts for 17% of Europe’s GDP. We are therefore talking about economies, about jobs and about growth. I am genuinely very pleased with the convergence that I see between the report on which you are due to vote and the work that I am currently overseeing on the forthcoming legislative procedures. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, the review of the Public Procurement Directives is part of a general programme to overhaul public procurement throughout Europe. In addition to the review of the directives, this programme, on which I am working with my colleagues, includes a directive on concessions – which have their own specific features, as we well know. This justifies the creation of a separate text, albeit one that remains consistent with the overall reform.

This package also includes an external aspect of our policy, with regard to which I am going to propose, in agreement with my colleague, Mr De Gucht, an instrument to guarantee reciprocal access to public procurement at international level. These three initiatives will together make up the legislative package that I am going to propose to the College in a few weeks’ time, in December.

What stage have we reached, and what do we plan to do following on from, and in the spirit of, the knowledge you impart in this report?

We are working on the following options, which I shall describe to you briefly. Firstly, the simplification of procedures. That is the number one objective. To achieve it, we are working towards the wider use of the negotiated procedure with prior publication. The latter is a good way of helping public authorities to purchase goods and services that genuinely meet their specific needs. This procedure could be accompanied by the safeguards necessary to ensure respect for the principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment.

We also plan to drastically reduce the amount of documentation. To be perfectly honest, I believe – and in my previous career as the head of a local authority in my country, I had cause to launch many tendering procedures – that it is excessive for businesses to have to provide at times – and we see this very often in practice – more than 20 documents issued by various authorities, often for a fee, for a single tender bid. This is discouraging many businesses, and especially small and medium-sized enterprises, from participating in tendering procedures. We could therefore replace this documentation with self-declarations by entrepreneurs. Only the tenderer who wins the contract would be required to present valid certificates.

Lastly, we are working towards strengthening and developing the digitisation of public procurement. This is another vital method of simplification. We could make digitisation mandatory in certain cases, in order to make the recording of data on computer – rather than on paper – the standard, or default, method, in the same way as e-mail is used for personal written communication.

All of these measures will help to reduce the amount of red tape, both for contracting authorities and for enterprises, especially small and medium-sized ones.

I now come to my second objective, which is also in line with your report, namely, finding ways of improving access to public procurement for small and medium-sized enterprises, which – I would remind you – make up 80% to 90% of Europe’s economic fabric, and which themselves have a huge amount of job-creation, growth and innovation potential.

With this aim in mind, we are in favour of eliminating the disproportionate requirements imposed on economic operators with regard to their financial standing. I therefore want to set a maximum level of turnover that may be demanded of a business as proof of its ability to carry out a contract.

We are also considering a possible allotment obligation, in other words, an obligation to divide public procurement contracts into lots, so that small and medium-sized enterprises can more easily bid for contracts through smaller lots.

Ladies and gentlemen, after simplification, we are going to use this package to try to improve the existing legal framework, to help ensure that societal objectives that are, moreover, included in the Europe 2020 strategy, namely, the environment, social inclusion and innovation, can be achieved.

Of course, we must be careful not to increase the administrative burden on contracting authorities. I have taken due note of the strong opposition to certain ideas, not least that of imposing ‘what to buy’ obligations that could undermine this simplification objective, expressed during the public consultation, in particular. In this package, we are considering some specific measures to promote the integration, via public procurement, of cross-cutting objectives that correspond to the new requirements of our society.

That is why we are working to improve the assessment of life-cycle cost, which encourages public authorities to take into account the entire life cycle of goods when making purchases.

We are looking at ways of clarifying the scope for contracting authorities to take the production process into consideration. This should enable Member States and contracting authorities to take into account, among other things, employees’ working conditions, respect for the minimum wage, collective agreements and International Labour Organisation conventions.

Furthermore, with regard more specifically to innovation – this is an issue on which Malcolm Harbour regularly updates me and on which he and the other members of the committee are very vigilant – I should like this objective of promoting innovation to become more formal. That is why we are considering creating a new partnership procedure that is specifically aimed at promoting innovative procurement by contracting authorities.

Another aspect that is particularly close to my heart, as you know, is social services of general economic interest (SSGEI). I would like to relax the rules further in this area, by giving the Member States even more freedom to organise their tender procedures for SSGEI, in accordance, of course, with the principles of transparency and non-discrimination.

Lastly, we also want to ensure that, in the case of SSGEI, contracting authorities can base their choice on quality criteria and can take all the specific features of these services into account.

To conclude, Ms Rühle, ladies and gentlemen, we want to work with you to ensure better governance, by professionalising public procurement, in particular, to ensure more integrated procedures, better prevention of conflicts of interest and the implementation of better demand aggregation tools for small contracting authorities.

As we said in the Single Market Act, and as I can confirm to you, the Commission will be adopting a legislative proposal on the reform of public procurement before the end of this year. It will be an ambitious proposal. That is why I wish to express my gratitude once again for the quality and the precision of your report, which will help us not only to develop, I hope, good cooperation between Parliament, the Commission and the Council, but also to draft sound legislative proposals over the next few weeks.

 
  
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  Kader Arif, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as we have just heard, the question of public procurement reform is a fundamental one for Europe, particularly at this time of crisis.

European rules are generally focused on the criterion of price, which means that our businesses are helpless in the face of foreign operators that do not hesitate to practise social and economic dumping in order to win public procurement contracts in Europe. That is why it is essential to recognise additional criteria, including in the WTO agreement on government procurement.

In the debate that I led in the Committee on International Trade, I stressed the need to reform that agreement and to extend it to new countries, particularly emerging ones. However, the creation of new instruments is also urgently required. In particular, we need an effective and binding tool for establishing a greater degree of reciprocity with countries that do not offer equivalent access to European operators.

Since the Commissioner has brought it up, I should also like to receive more details about the legislative proposal that is being drafted.

Lastly, we need to create an instrument for supervising buyouts of European businesses by foreign capital, in particular, by sovereign funds. This is a solution that has already been applied by the United States through an ad hoc committee and which ensures the protection of this strategic sector. Europe, which can be naive or weak when faced with its foreign competitors, would be well advised to take inspiration from it.

 
  
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  Bart Staes, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Budgetary Control.(NL) Madam President, first and foremost, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Rühle, and the entire Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, for their supreme cooperation with the Committee on Budgetary Control, for which I am acting as the rapporteur here. From the six core tasks that Ms Rühle highlighted, I would like to emphasise core task number 5, namely, ensuring sound procedures and avoiding unfair advantages.

It is indeed the case that it is essential, in combating corruption and favouritism, to first ensure that there is better exchange of data, certainly in relation to unsound bidders. As a second point, there is a need to ensure clear rules for the protection of whistle-blowers, and the 2010 resolution from the Council of Europe shows the way in that regard. Thirdly, there is a need to ensure greater transparency and that both governments and the public at large are better informed.

Ms Rühle’s report deserves our unanimous support, not least because it offers a boost for those also looking to use public procurement to secure quality jobs, wages and working conditions as well as equality of treatment. Those recitals that argue for sound and legally binding agreements in relation to social and ecological criteria and the replacement of the criterion of lowest price by the criterion of most economically advantageous tender thus have my complete backing.

Only in that way will we actually obtain high-quality tenders where all the life-cycle costs of goods, works or services are taken into account. Only then will we be going for quality instead of pursuing the mentality of a cheap bookkeeper.

 
  
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  Julie Girling, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – Madam President, the current rules on public procurement are rigid, complicated and burdensome. This review is most timely and a welcome opportunity to rectify this situation.

Public procurement is a key market-based instrument which is a vital factor in fostering sustainable employment and can also be geared towards innovative solutions to environmental and social concerns.

Current rules on public procurement already allow considerations such as social inclusion, working conditions and the needs of marginalised individuals to be taken into account. However, the practical application of the current rules needs both simplification and clarification. With public procurement accounting for approximately 17% of the EU’s GDP, if we simplify the current rules, we could give SMEs a genuine opportunity to come forward with innovative ideas which not only promote economic recovery but also sustainable job creation.

I welcome this report with its clear recognition of the role of public procurement in providing stable employment in these difficult times.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.(SV) Madam President, in view of the EU’s sustainable development objectives, the rules for public procurement must be changed to encourage all public operators to set high environmental, climate, animal welfare and social requirements throughout the whole production process. There are currently many who want to, but do not actually do so on account of the fact that there is a lack of clarity on too many issues, both in the directive and in its application.

Here are a few other requirements in brief: the focus must be shifted from the lowest price to life-cycle costs. It must be made clear that it is perfectly acceptable to set higher animal welfare standards than the minimum levels set by the EU. The directive must make it clear that it does not prevent any Member State from complying with ILO Convention No 94. The requirements laid down must, of course, apply to all subcontractors. Monitoring of the requirements laid down must also improve.

I would like to thank Ms Rühle for her constructive cooperation and for an excellent report.

 
  
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  Vicky Ford, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – Madam President, public procurement can be used to drive both innovation and efficiency, but often innovation is not encouraged when contracts are awarded. Public procurement is already too complicated and too bureaucratic, and mandatory innovation targets would not help. Innovation cannot be made to order. Instead, contracting processes should enable providers to develop clever solutions to challenges, rather than try to specify solutions in advance.

On energy efficiency, for example, searching for the lowest price is not always the answer; nor is forcing authorities to purchase individual products, which individually appear efficient but collectively may not be. There does need to be a good dialogue and mutual understanding between the public sector and R&D sectors, but I am not convinced that the Commission’s rigid partnerships are necessarily a good solution. Simplifying processes must be a priority and the EU should avoid over-regulating where this restricts flexibility, innovation or competition.

 
  
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  Ramona Nicole Mănescu, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development.(RO) Madam President, I wish to begin by congratulating and thanking Ms Rühle for all her efforts in drafting this report.

Public procurement does, indeed, play a vital role in the cohesion policy, especially in the running of projects financed by European funds. Now more than ever, Member States need to spend their European money efficiently. This is why clear provisions are required, aimed at reforming and simplifying European public procurement procedures.

It is also vital for local and regional authorities to participate in the process of reviewing these regulations, thereby giving them increased autonomy in the area of public procurement.

Standardising procedures at the public procurement stage is also a measure which simplifies this process, while also providing an instrument for combating corruption, one of the most common causes of irregularities in the implementation of European projects.

Last but not least, the European Commission has an important role to play in reforming this system. We call on it to take the necessary measures both to simplify the procedural framework as a whole and to resolve the serious shortcomings relating to non-compliance with public procurement regulations.

 
  
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  Frank Engel, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Madam President, after that big round of speeches from the committees that have submitted an opinion, one would think that everything has been said, and that is more or less the case. It is particularly the case given that the Commissioner has also said many things that we welcome, even though we will doubtless have to continue to debate some of them.

I shall begin by thanking the rapporteur, Ms Rühle, for her receptiveness and her desire to secure a broad agreement in this House. Given the outcome of the vote in committee, she appears to have succeeded.

The main objective of this report is, ultimately, to increase transparency and legal certainty in the vast area of public procurement, where a certain amount of simplification is clearly required. It is a huge programme: some details can be found in this report, while we will learn about the others when the Commissioner proposes new legislative measures.

I wish to mention a few specific points from the report. I am disappointed at the finding that only 1.5% of public procurement contracts in the European Union are concluded across borders. This disappointing statistic must be improved, for example, by making it easier to prepare and conclude public procurement contracts electronically. One point five per cent is not enough to meet the demands of a single market worthy of the name.

We are focusing on the general preference for the notion of the most economically advantageous offer rather than that of the cheapest offer. I regard that as a significant step forward. It includes costs that would otherwise not be taken into account.

Lastly, another important aspect is service concessions. I would remind the Commissioner of our firm intention to scrutinise the proposal that he will submit to us on added value and on the proper functioning of the internal market. That is what we intend to do with all our might.

 
  
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  Bernadette Vergnaud, on behalf of the S&D Group.(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, public procurement is a wonderful tool for reviving the European economy, creating quality jobs and choosing more socially and environmentally sustainable offers. To achieve all these things, we have to change our policy of making the lowest price the sole criterion: it is the bedfellow of mediocrity insofar as it obliges public authorities to undertake convoluted procedures in order to choose quality.

The report on which we will be voting tomorrow introduces the criterion of the most economically advantageous offer, which enables authorities to demand that tenderers meet high standards. I am grateful to Ms Rühle for having defended this principle so well; it will give operators greater flexibility and greater legal certainty.

Another key point is access to public procurement markets, under favourable conditions, by operators in the social economy and small and medium-sized enterprises. European rules are very restrictive for these organisations. They must be improved so that these organisations can respond to major invitations to tender without having to act as subcontractors. In this regard, the very frequent use of this system presents real problems for SMEs affected by tariff dumping and for their employees, who do not benefit from the same pay and social conditions as their counterparts who are employed by large groups. A chain of responsibility must be envisaged. It is unacceptable for main service providers to be allowed to transfer their responsibilities to small subcontractors.

I therefore call on you to vote in favour of maintaining paragraph 22, so that employees’ rights are respected and job-creating small businesses are protected in every Member State.

Lastly, I am pleased that the Member States have been asked to sign ILO Convention C94 on labour clauses (public contracts). That Convention has been around since 1949, but only 11 Member States are signatories to it.

However, I regret that it has not been possible to go further with regard to reciprocal access to public procurement markets in industrialised and emerging third countries.

Europe can no longer be the only one to respect the rules, and therefore I ask you to vote against the deletion of paragraph 29.

This report is a balanced text, and I call on you not to distort it tomorrow. Doing so would undermine the interests of our industry, our businesses and workers.

 
  
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  Michael Theurer, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, first of all, on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Rühle, for her report and for such good cooperation. In view of the current debate, this is an appropriate moment to point out that public procurement is a very important way of achieving fair prices for public services and for the procurement of goods for the public sector. Competition is one element of using our scarce resources economically.

It is thus a positive aspect of this report that public procurement is to be simplified. This should also facilitate access to public procurement for small and medium-sized enterprises. The measures for achieving this includes consistently allowing self-declarations, the division of contracts into lots – in other words, an SME-friendly tendering procedure – and the introduction of an electronic procurement passport. Moreover, when awarding contracts, the contracting authorities should give greater consideration to the quality of the goods and services to be procured, in addition to the price. It is also sensible for contracting authorities to attach greater weight to future life-cycle costs. In other words, it is no longer simply a matter of the cheapest offer, but rather the most economic offer over the entire life cycle. Greater consideration also needs to be given to environmental sustainability.

These are the positive points. However, we in the ALDE Group feel there are some points that need revising. There are calls for the bureaucratic requirements on subcontractors to be increased. We see this as a major problem. We also want to have an open market worldwide that cannot be distorted by giving preference to domestic bidders. In return, we want other countries to open up their markets. We are also critical as regards award criteria introduced through bureaucracy; in other words, where certain local authorities are allowed to introduce their own criteria. It is in the interests of the market as a whole to prevent this.

 
  
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  Malcolm Harbour, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, I warmly welcome Mrs Rühle’s second report – and I think we should remember that – on public procurement, both on behalf of my group and as chairman of the committee. I think it is quite clear that we are setting the framework within which the Commissioner is going to move forward. I am very pleased, Commissioner – and I am sure my colleagues agree – to see that you are going to come up with an ambitious series of reforms, because we desperately need that.

The problem with public procurement at the moment, as many of you pointed out, is that it is a straitjacket on dynamic markets, sensible solutions, innovation and green growth. I think there is a sense in which public procurers are managing the process and are focused entirely on meeting the rules instead of considering the outcome. That is bad public policy, and now is the time to do something about it: it is one of your twelve levers of growth, Commissioner, and that is the context in which we need to put it.

My closing point, which I made in the big meeting we had with commissioners last week, is that we cannot actually wait for two years to implement the new rules. There are a lot of things which could be done in clarifying the rules, and I hope that you will remember that, because we actually need that action now to get growth going.

 
  
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  Mikael Gustafsson, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(SV) Madam President, I am pleased that this report aims to widen the view of what is economically sustainable. The current procurement rules have a far too narrow commercial perspective, that is to say, often the lowest price possible.

However, a low price also has its price to pay, for example, when it comes to how it affects social and ecological sustainability. Thus, it also affects men and women in very different ways.

We therefore need life-cycle analyses and a sustainability and equality dimension to public procurement. This will hopefully result in us instead having a socio-economic perspective on public procurement, thereby moving away from the short-sighted profit-oriented requirements.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I am in favour of the report, which is used as an occasion to take stock and examine European public procurement policy. The report calls for compliance with the criteria of transparency, clarity, sustainability and accessibility, as well as further simplification and improved legal certainty.

In order to support small and medium-sized enterprises and local bodies, I agree with the request to assess the possibility of raising the current thresholds for so-called European contracts. Fairer conditions, simplified access and minimal administrative requirements are also called for. It is important to encourage calls for tenders that stimulate innovation and strengthen the rules on subcontracting, so as to keep health and safety standards always high, by supporting local authorities.

All this may have a significant effect in terms of development and the fight against corruption, and result in better utilisation of public funds.

 
  
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  Andreas Schwab (PPE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start by offering my thanks to Ms Rühle and to our shadow rapporteur, Mr Engel, for their excellent work. In reality, a lot of compromises have been made in this report, and they had to be made. This was beneficial overall. I would like to express my thanks for that, too.

In my view, the starting point – and a lot has been said already that I do not want to repeat – is the fact that, in the area of public procurement legislation, the internal market is not working at present in the way it was supposed to, because in a lot of cross-border procurement processes, no cross-border bids or offers are submitted. That should really give us cause for thought, and I hope that the simplifications proposed by Commissioner Barnier will change this significantly.

Secondly, I feel that the principle of best value for money – the best offer when considered over the entire life cycle – is something that needs to be emphasised more, even though it was not ruled out previously. If we are being honest, this is an aspect of public procurement law that can give rise to a great deal of populism. I would therefore like to thank all the Members here today who have objectively stuck to the facts.

Another point that could be incorporated today is greater consideration of small and medium-sized enterprises, which is a major concern of my group. Small and medium-sized enterprises can already be brought into the process today through division into lots, however, and this is already happening to some extent.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that we will succeed in keeping inappropriate criteria out of the new draft legislation; that in the end, the party that submits the best offer when the entire life cycle is considered will indeed win the contract.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur, Ms Rühle, and the shadow rapporteurs on their work, which has culminated in a report that is comprehensive, clear and a step in the right direction. They have been able to highlight the changes that are crucial to sound public procurement reform, in particular, regarding greater legal certainty and the need for SMEs to participate more in public procurement.

I should like to go back over four points that I believe ought to be included in the future European Commission proposal, which we expect to receive in December. The first is the end of the criterion of lowest price, which is crucial in my view. Public procurement has an impact on the citizens and on our environment. We need to take a long-term view of procurement and ensure that the criterion of the most economically, socially and environmentally advantageous tender takes precedence. By doing so, we will encourage innovation and make faster progress towards the Europe 2020 strategy objectives.

The second point is that public procurement can be a real driving force for the promotion of quality jobs, pay and working conditions if we use it properly. We must therefore be vigilant and increasingly opt for sustainable public procurement that incorporates social and environmental criteria.

The third point is that subcontracting presents numerous problems and must be examined carefully. Social and environmental criteria cannot be dispensed with to suit these subcontracts; they must remain verifiable and they must actually be verified.

The fourth point concerns something that has already been said: we must do away with as much red tape as possible so as to enable SMEs, and small enterprises in particular, to participate in tendering procedures. As you said, Commissioner, these SMEs are the wealth creators of the European economy. They must be allowed to develop to their full potential, and obviously I have no doubts about what you have said you intend to do, Commissioner.

I am going to have the honour of becoming the rapporteur for this House, and I am eager to work on this crucial issue so as to revive growth, even more so than today, of course. As you said, Commissioner, public procurement, public purchasing accounts for 17% of EU GDP, and I am genuinely eager to work with you, ladies and gentlemen, and with you, Commissioner, to ensure that this tool makes growth a reality again in Europe.

 
  
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  Edvard Kožušník (ECR). (CS) Madam President, Commissioner, since we are talking about public procurement, we must also talk about the bottlenecks in public procurement. In my opinion, the bottlenecks include excessive bureaucracy, legal certainty, the lack of transparency and also the absence of standardisation and regulation in procurement. In my opinion, we must thank the rapporteur, Ms Rühle, for the fact that the report goes in the right direction and has the potential for future legislation.

What concerns me greatly about procurement, however, just as it does Mr Engel, is the fact that only 5% of public procurement at pan-European level takes the form of electronic procurement. In the meantime, through the use of high-quality application set-ups and other electronic means, it is possible to achieve greater transparency, reduce bureaucracy and apply the principle of good practice, as well as greater awareness of public procurement and greater competition through increased cross-border procurement.

 
  
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  Róża Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein (PPE).(PL) Madam President, the debates on public procurement in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection were indeed lively, emotionally charged and very interesting. I, too, would like to thank Heide Rühle for this report. Those of you who were in Kraków for the Single Market Forum will probably remember that representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises complained that in practice, a lot of tenders are closed to them. Perhaps you remember the story of a Finn who was told at the last minute to provide some documents in Bulgarian and some additional documents which he did not manage to provide on time and, for this reason, was excluded from the tender, and so on.

In light of all of this, I was particularly glad to hear everything the Commissioner said a moment ago. The legislative proposal that the Commissioner submitted to the European Commission addresses precisely those expectations which are particularly urgent not only among fellow Members but indeed among the people of Europe and, above all, among businesses. The fact that the Commissioner stresses the need for a separate proposal for a concession in order to open the market and increase transparency in this respect seems to me also to be extremely important and very much worthy of support. I would concur with Malcolm Harbour that time is of the essence in this matter. We need to work on this documentation quickly because the legislative changes are needed now.

 
  
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  Evelyne Gebhardt (S&D).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, public procurement is an extremely important task that we have for the future. I very much welcome the fact that the European Commission intends not only to improve legal certainty, but also to put right some aspects that have gone wrong.

I would also like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Rühle, for having included a couple of points that are extremely important to those of us who are members of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. Firstly, there is the issue that we must ensure that the rights of workers are safeguarded and that social criteria enjoy a prominent place. That is very important to us, because global sustainability includes ensuring that we do not generate poverty tomorrow but that instead, when awarding contracts, we also ensure that reasonable prices are paid, enabling us to protect the lives of workers.

Another important point for us was, and remains, the fact that subcontractors are treated in exactly the same way as contractors – so that when contracts are awarded to contractors, the criteria cannot then be set aside because their subcontractors do not have to adhere to them. This is not a pipe dream, but rather it is a point that is very important to us: ensuring that legal certainty is brought about in this respect, so that we can genuinely make sure that public procurement remains transparent and comprehensible to the public, and so as to ensure fair competition between enterprises – particularly where small and medium-sized enterprises are concerned. Far from being inappropriate criteria, therefore, these are criteria that are extremely important.

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE).(SV) Madam President, our children at school, people who are sick in hospital, and elderly people at home, have the same right to receive good quality food as those of us who can choose to go to the shop. I am therefore very pleased that we have agreed that value for money – the efficient use of money – and not merely low price is to be the criterion for public procurement.

It is important that, together, we define what that means. Production methods, environmental transparency, sustainability and animal welfare are very important criteria, but they must not provide the opportunity and an excuse to discriminate against companies or suppliers from other European countries. The same conditions must apply to everyone who meets the same criteria.

It is also very important that we have agreed that we must make procedures simpler, be more flexible and reduce bureaucracy in order to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises can also compete on the same conditions and are genuinely able to offer this option of good quality, wholesome food.

I am pleased that several of my fellow Members have also pointed out that we need e-procurement. This is a large part of our commitment to a digital Europe and a well-functioning internal market. Thank you.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (S&D).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, like many who have spoken before me, I think that Ms Rühle’s report is a good one.

Public procurement is an instrument with which public authorities can set an example. Consequently, this idea that the criterion of the most economically advantageous offer should replace that of the lowest price is somewhat in line with our demand at European level for the criterion of GNP no longer to be the only indicator. We are on the right track. However, if you are looking for ways of going further, you could also take the step of proposing bonuses and penalties for companies that fail to meet the requirements in terms of sustainable and quality goods and services when implementing these public procurement contracts.

Furthermore, as you and many others have said, we want to be able to facilitate access for operators in the social economy through this review of public procurement rules at EU level.

I should like to raise a third point, which I believe is absolutely crucial, namely, the issue of subcontracting. As you know, Commissioner, large worksites throughout the world are a real disgrace in terms of their compliance with social legislation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and use competition or the risk of the Chinese winning contracts as an excuse. We need to make these contracts an example of excellence in social terms. This means that you have to review the chain of responsibility issue. Tenderers who win public contracts must shoulder their responsibilities, and that includes going and supervising letterbox companies that encourage modern-day slavery and which we cannot tolerate within the European Union.

 
  
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  Amalia Sartori (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, my sincere thanks go to Ms Rühle for the work she has done, to the Commission and its President, and, above all, to Commissioner Barnier, both for the way in which he has followed this work and, in particular, for the commitment he has adopted this afternoon here in this Chamber.

Mention has been made of what this sector represents in terms of Europe’s GDP and, consequently, its importance to our economy, as well as to growth and employment. The keywords are important, and I am delighted to point out that they are widely supported. Simplifying documentation, procedures, digitisation and standardisation is one aspect on which all Members have shown their agreement.

The importance of small and medium-sized enterprises to the economic fabric of our continent has also been mentioned. Simplification is useful for large, medium-sized and small businesses: in other words, it is useful for everyone. For small businesses, however, the possibility of broadening access to contracts by splitting them into smaller lots would certainly help to combat many distortions, particularly in the area of subcontracting, as has been mentioned by several speakers here.

I must thank the Commissioner for planning an ambitious series of reforms, which will innovate and, I hope, introduce new procurement modalities, tackle concessions and projects, and aim for quality in the results to be achieved and the routes to be taken, including respect for the rules of the employment market.

 
  
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  António Fernando Correia De Campos (S&D).(PT) Madam President, I would like to thank my colleague, Ms Rühle, for the excellent report she has drafted. The advantages of public procurement are certainly well known, but the problems are also clear: conflicts of interest between European legislation and the goals of the Member States harm competitiveness. There is a clear dichotomy between the quality of prices and the complexity of laws and procedures.

It is crucial to look at existing good practices, specifically in Portugal, where e-procurement has been working well and has facilitated public procurement.

Effective European public procurement is an ideal way of controlling the public deficit and increasing growth. To achieve this, it needs to have a stable and predictable legal framework, to follow less bureaucratic procedures so as to attract small and medium-sized enterprises, and to defend social and environmental values. For this reason, I welcome the intention that Commissioner Barnier has presented to us here of reviewing public procurement before the end of the year, as one of the 12 priorities of the Single Market Act.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE).(PT) Madam President, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague, Ms Rühle, and everyone who worked with her. The issue of e-procurement is an important element of public procurement. Unfortunately, the target proposed by the European Union of conducting 50% of contract award procedures electronically by 2010 was not met, with current rates at barely 5%. Only some countries, such as my country, Portugal, have been successful in this area.

The benefits of e-procurement are all too obvious, and have already been discussed here in Parliament: costly access procedures are replaced with the mere consultation of an electronic platform. In other words, much of the cost for companies, in particular, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is reduced; the number of suppliers is increased through the dissemination of procedural documents and the ease of receiving them over the Internet, thereby expanding competition and enabling better purchase to be made; the contract award procedure is made easier and more flexible; access to European Union contracts, especially for SMEs, is simplified, so facilitating the involvement of the main drivers of the economy in public procurement.

As such, we welcome the European Commission’s strengthening of mechanisms for increasing the scope of e-procurement and would encourage it.

 
  
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  Toine Manders (ALDE).(NL) Madam President, I would like to thank Ms Rühle for the sound work she has done, and the same goes for the Commissioner. It makes clear how important small and medium-sized enterprises are. I have one comment to add, which is that it is perhaps appropriate, in these times of crisis, to propose a certain minimum, for example, that at least 30% of all tenders need to go to SMEs. At any rate, that would give the governments a reason to definitely enable SMEs to bid. There is therefore a need for conditions to be laid down, but this will, perhaps, take place in a subsequent proposal from Commissioner Barnier, which he has already more or less announced.

I hope that the Rühle report represents an excellent interim step towards obtaining an even better and more active SME sector through procurement policy. If that were to succeed, I would be very grateful. It is a positive, certainly in times of economic crisis, to take measures quickly in order to enable European businesses to create growth once again. That is a good thing for us, and for everyone, and it is the most social thing that we can do.

 
  
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  President. – We now move to the catch-the-eye part of the debate. Again, I am going to tell you now that I have far more requests for the floor than we can possibly take. I will take six in total.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, in light of the budget reductions that Member States are facing, the EU needs to have a fully functioning, effective public procurement market.

European legislation should be simplified to enable procurers to achieve the best results, while investing the minimum time and funds. Streamlining procedures will facilitate the participation of both SMEs and cross-border bidders. I should point out that only 1.6% of public contracts are awarded to operators from other Member States.

In Romania, both public procurement legislation and specific SME legislation provide a number of incentives to get SMEs to participate.

I should mention the need to introduce the online tender system. For example, SMEs are eligible for a 50% reduction for participation and performance bonds.

 
  
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  María Irigoyen Pérez (S&D).(ES) Madam President, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, this weekend, I listened to a Spanish writer I admire reflecting on learning in life. He called it ‘life understood’.

I would like to spend a few minutes today talking about politics, politics understood, and for my first words to be words of congratulation to Spanish society and its representatives, to the national security forces and bodies, the judges, the former Minister for the Interior, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, and President Rodríguez Zapatero, for having made the end of terrorism, the most long-awaited news in Spanish democracy, a reality. This marks the start of a new period of hope for Spanish society, which will never forget its victims.

Moving on to the subject under discussion, the Rühle report on comprehensive public management policy, we know that modernising public contracting is a key part of the single market, a fundamental tool for ensuring efficiency. This is why we are calling for a review, with a transparent report, to enable SMEs to access the engine of the economy.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Madam President, we agree with the view that public procurement should accommodate principles like maximising social welfare and environmental protection across the board.

The purchase of goods and services by the public authorities, using public funds, should meet the needs of the public in each Member State, and should do so whilst safeguarding respect for criteria of economic, social and environmental sustainability. However, the creation of a European public procurement market under the specific conditions in which the integration project is currently being undertaken does not ensure that these objectives will be achieved but rather threatens them. In reality, this clears the way towards a market worth almost 17% of EU GDP for large companies.

The imbalances currently existing within the European Union and the extremely serious situation faced by the weaker economies justify the gearing of public procurement towards the national preference in those Member States. This would stimulate national production, the activity of small and medium-sized enterprises, and shorter supply chains that are more socially and environmentally sustainable. It would therefore constitute an important instrument for economic recovery for essential growth and development, and would enable deficits and obstacles to be overcome. That is our proposal and our challenge.

 
  
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  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE). (HU) Madam President, first of all, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for her excellent work, which resulted in a balanced report. However, I would like to stress that better regulation implies the need for better legal security for those involved.

If we assume that the complicated system of European legislation and its national transposition resulted in simplified public procurement procedures, we are mistaken. In reality, they resulted in higher costs for legal advice, longer procedures, and more work. Therefore, I think that there is a need to synchronise legal remedial and public procurement procedures, as well as to take into account full life cycle costs, as the Commissioner has mentioned.

I agree with the rapporteur in that the ‘lowest price’ criterion should not be a determining factor, and that excessive guarantees and assurances, imposing greater burdens on SMEs, should also be eliminated.

 
  
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  Judith A. Merkies (S&D).(NL) Madam President, there is a lot of agreement here today, and that bodes well for the future, offering out the promise that something really will change. When public money is invested, high requirements always need to be set, while it is precisely the use of public money that makes it possible to serve the long-term interests that are often not looked after where private money is used. The inhibitory rules stand in the way of such long-termism, of sustainability and innovation, and also of jobs.

We all stand for principles, but our differing principles often contradict each other and ensure enormous amounts of monstrous bureaucracy. I therefore propose a very clear examination of innovation and SMEs. Are the rules in that regard set up in the best way? It is perhaps an idea to establish a percentage for this but, in any case, there has to be preferential treatment for the SMEs sector. I also agree that cheap is not good enough. Good quality and maximum commitment to corporate social responsibility need to be the norm. Common sense needs to win out in the long term.

 
  
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  Niki Tzavela (EFD).(EL) Madam President, I should like to take my turn in congratulating Ms Rühle on her excellent proposals.

Commissioner, I should like to ask you the following question: for countries in serious recession, such as Portugal, Greece and Ireland, do you think we could have a special framework of regulations for a transitional period, with strict rules for complying with transparency and the necessary laws and with specific regulations to help public contracts progress and support the economy?

For example, a drastic cut in the lead time for action, in the case of infrastructure works, or the use of EU financing, where there is any, as a guarantee in lieu of a bank guarantee.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, I am grateful to every one of you for your attention and your interest in this important debate. Earlier, I said 17% of EU GDP, but, to be precise, Mr Tarabella and Mr Staes, that percentage has increased from 17% to 19% today because of the crisis and the economic slowdown that we are unfortunately experiencing.

Therefore, this just confirms or emphasises the importance of public procurement and of the need for us to use it effectively together on the basis of the information in your report and in the texts that I am drafting on the economy, growth and competitiveness.

I should like to emphasise the issue that I believe is still the number one priority: simplification in the reform that we are preparing. Simplification should help both contracting authorities and, of course, businesses, and, in particular, as Mr Schwab, Mr Manders and others before them said, small and medium-sized enterprises, for which the current complexity and the cost of simply participating in a tendering procedure are insurmountable.

I was told the other day that the cost of meeting the administrative requirements for some tendering procedures amounts to almost 30% of the contract amount. Such conditions are beyond belief: a small business has to pay 30% of the contract amount, of the turnover that it hopes to achieve! That explains, Mr Engel, why many businesses give up and why there are so few cross-border contracts and lines of communication between businesses. The situation is already complicated in their own countries, but it is even more complicated in neighbouring ones.

Therefore, the first priority is to simplify matters for SMEs and, to do so, we need measures, which I will mention briefly: the wider use of the negotiated procedure, a drastic reduction in the documentation required, and then, as Mr Correia De Campos and Mr Kožušník said just now, the strengthening of electronic procurement.

At this point, I should like to say to Ms Tzavela, who mentioned the specific case of Greece and, perhaps, of other countries in difficulty, that we implemented a procedure to simplify public procurement procedures as an exceptional move during the financial crisis. Moreover, your committees are well aware of this.

On the subject of Greece, we have a task force that is working as we speak, Ms Tzavela. Moreover, that task force comprises highly skilled officials from my own Directorate-General, including the former Director-General, Mr Holmquist. We shall make a point of promoting the recovery of growth and work, and the successful completion of, among other things, the 150 projects that are still pending, but we really must have regard to legal certainty when we do so in order to avoid procedures and remedies that block everything. In any case, I am mindful of this issue.

With regard to the issues of innovation, social policy and the environment, which many of you raised, including Ms Girling, Ms Westlund and Ms Gebhardt, you asked me what else the Union can do. I believe that, as Malcolm Harbour said, many possibilities already exist within the scope of the current directives. The main priority is to use those directives properly. That is what I am committed to doing, and we are acting along those lines.

Several of you spoke about innovation – Mr Harbour spoke about it of course, but so did Ms Ford. The European Union strategy, called the ‘Innovation Union’, has defined a new approach. We want to boost performance in the field of research and innovation by bringing innovative ideas and discoveries to the market more quickly. The initiatives in question are intended to ensure that we remain competitive when promoting innovative procurement and, for example, that all Member States and regions in the EU honour their commitment to allocate a total budget of more than EUR 10 billion to pre-commercial procurement and innovative public procurement. This is what my colleague, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, has proposed.

My colleague, Mr Tajani, has, for his part, assigned the Directorate-General for Enterprise to work on the Lead Market Initiative, which helps contracting authorities to set up cooperation networks so that they can share their experiences and jointly acquire and finance innovative solutions while sharing the attendant risks. Consequently, we are launching pilot projects and have recently published a new invitation to tender for innovative projects and set aside a budget of EUR 15 million. Lastly, my colleague, Ms Kroes, has introduced measures to assist contracting authorities when they implement pre-commercial procurement methods.

As part of the public procurement reform that we are preparing, we are going to propose a new procedure, or partnership, for the procurement of innovative products. It consists of specific legislative measures to foster joint cross-border procurement and greater legal protection of innovative solutions as part of a competitive dialogue. All of that will supplement what I have just discussed.

With regard to the sustainable dimension of the social and environmental aspects that many of you mentioned, we envisage that the production process will be considered from the point of view not only of technical specifications but also of award criteria. Ms Berès talked about bonuses and penalties; I could mention, more simply, the granting of additional points to tenderers that fulfil the conditions in question, whether in terms of social considerations – employee working conditions, respect for the minimum wage, or, as I said, collective agreements or International Labour Organisation conventions – or in terms of environmental considerations, such as the use of green energy sources.

I personally have another concern, which I know many of you share, and that is cooperation between public authorities. I know that contracting authorities that wish to cooperate with each other often have difficulty today in distinguishing between situations in which the European procurement directives do or do not apply. That is why my services and I published a guide at the beginning of October to explain and clarify the framework that currently applies in this area. This document is intended for anyone involved in public procurement: it consolidates the case-law of the Court, making it simpler and more easily understandable for everyone.

I should like to go further and have even more legal certainty in this area. For this reason, I should like to include rules on public-public cooperation in the context of the reform that we are preparing. Several of you raised this issue of legal certainty, including Ms Gáll-Pelcz just now. I shall, of course, bear in mind the concerns expressed by many of you with regard to transparency and the issue of subcontracting.

There is another aspect that I wish to point out: the proper application of the rules. In some exceptional circumstances, they should be simplified as well. We will achieve this in two ways: firstly, via the role that the centres of excellence must play in supporting purchasers and, secondly, via the involvement of Member States in ensuring that these rules – including their social aspects, Ms Sartori – are applied better.

As regards the second section of the legislative package, I heard Mr Engel’s warning loud and clear when he told me that he was going to scrutinise the proposal that we are going to make on concessions. This issue was raised by Ms Thun und Hohenstein also. I have no ideological position on this issue. I just note that, 30 years on from the creation of the internal market, there are still no basic rules on service concessions. We are therefore going to make some proposals, which I hope will be as intelligent as possible, without wishing to interfere with, pick apart or weaken the small concessions that are of interest to many local authorities. I believe that, for the sake of transparency, legal certainty and good management, we need a minimum framework for regulating service concessions.

Does this mean that public services will have to be outsourced? I believe that this criticism that I hear now and then is unfair. Under EU law, public authorities are free to choose whether they carry out the public interest tasks that are assigned to them by using their own resources or by calling on external bodies to carry them out. If a public authority decides to use the services of a privately funded external body, on what grounds should we oppose it, if the decision is taken under fair and transparent conditions? The internal market in concessions must ensure that citizens benefit from services, particularly services of general interest, that offer the best quality-price ratio, and that businesses, particularly small businesses, can access procurement markets in the other Member States.

Lastly, a number of you, including Mr Arif and Ms Vergnaud, talked about the external dimension of the public procurement reform. My colleague, Mr De Gucht, and I are going to propose that the EU establish a clear and simple instrument that gives legal certainty to our purchasers and to businesses, European and non-European alike, by reflecting our international commitments in EU law. At the same time, we will establish a method of uniformly processing tenders from countries with which we do not have an agreement, such as China and India.

I apologise for those somewhat brief answers. This report is extremely important and useful, and I want to make that clear to Ms Rühle. I shall use it, and we may have further discussions on certain points. In any case, it has come at the right time, since, in the next few weeks, I will be proposing that the College of the European Commission adopt proposals aimed at modernising our public procurement legislation in the following three areas: modernisation of public procurement and simplification, concessions under the conditions that I have mentioned, and external dimensions.

Once again, I wish to thank you, Ms Rühle, and all of your colleagues for having drafted this report, which is extremely useful to us.

 
  
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  Heide Rühle, rapporteur.(DE) Madam President, I would like to express my warmest thanks to the Commissioner for the fact that he wishes to incorporate our comments into the revision and take them into consideration. I would also like to thank everybody for their comments this evening. I would specifically like to mention one point. In 2004, we also set ourselves the objective of simplifying the public procurement directives. Unfortunately, the result was not what we were aiming for. This was not just because the wording of the legislation at European level was highly complex, but also because the complexity was increased still further in the course of implementation in the Member States. We need to work on that if we really want to simplify things this time. It is not just a matter of the European public procurement directives being clear, simple and flexible; it also matters that, when implementing them in national law, the Member States must not make the rules more complicated than necessary and do not impose additional requirements. That is also important and is something that we need to take into consideration.

I would also like to mention one other point that I feel is particularly important in this debate. If we want to give the contracting authorities and small and medium-sized enterprises more room for manoeuvre, then we need to make sure that we do not impose new set requirements. A couple of times during this debate, we heard people mention quotas. I consider that extremely difficult. Set requirements will tend to increase bureaucracy, because in some Member States, they will be easy to achieve, and in others more difficult. In the end, we would then need a compromise that is very difficult to implement. That is why I am resisting this. I have always said quite clearly in this report that we do not want set requirements. What we want is greater local democracy, better access for small and medium-sized enterprises and simplified procedures, but no additional regulations.

That is the first point. One further point that is very important to me is that we have said that we do not want the cheapest offer, but rather the economically most advantageous offer. Further evidence for this was provided in Kraków. During the debate, the Polish representative said that because the wording of the European public procurement directives was unclear, 80% of contracts in Poland were awarded to the cheapest bid and not to the economically most advantageous offer. That is the direction we want to go in, and I consider this to be important. If we move in this direction, however, it is essential that we do not create additional bureaucratic requirements here, but instead facilitate and simplify matters, provide more assistance, and have greater exchange of best practice.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 25 October 2011).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  János Áder (PPE), in writing.(HU) I participated in the debates concerning the Green Paper on the modernisation of EU public procurement policy as shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party on the Committee on the Environment.

I can gladly say that our Committee widely agreed that by promoting a broader application of environmentally friendly ‘green public procurement’, we can take meaningful steps towards a resource-efficient and low-carbon economy.

In view of the aforesaid, I am of the opinion that in future public procurements, more emphasis will need to be given to rules ensuring the application of sustainability criteria. One of the primary means of achieving this is to put an end to the monopoly of lowest prices among award criteria, and instead allow for the selection of the economically most favourable offer, which also takes into account the life cycle costs and environmental advantages of the services concerned.

The report is correct in pointing out that in order for all this to be put into practice, we naturally also need the Commission to develop a methodology for the quick and voluntary calculation of life cycle costs, which is to be made widely available to contracting authorities.

Another important aspect for me as shadow rapporteur was for the participation of small- and medium-sized enterprises in green public procurement to be increased. Accordingly, in its opinion, the Committee on the Environment proposes that in case the object or service for which public procurement has been announced is also available locally, it should be possible, based on the principle of proximity, to reserve the procedure for local SMEs, whereby the environmental impacts caused by the procurement, such as the CO2 emissions from shipping, could also be reduced. Similarly important is the objective of reducing administrative burdens and setting clear and transparent requirements at directive level.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) The main purpose of public procurement must remain the purchase of goods, works and services by public authorities to accommodate the needs of their citizens and ensure effective use of public funds. We need simplified procedures, flexibility and better information. We also need legal certainty and less red tape.

A properly functioning public procurement market is a key driver of growth and a cornerstone of the single market. Furthermore, it is fundamental to stimulating competition and innovation and to addressing rapidly emerging environmental and social public policy challenges, as well as work quality issues, including adequate pay, equality, social cohesion and inclusion.

I think that European public procurement rules must contribute substantially to increasing transparency and ensuring equal treatment, as well as to combating corruption and putting the procurement process on a professional footing. It is also important that public procurement law refocuses on its core task of guaranteeing transparency, non-discrimination and competition.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D), in writing. (LT) Public procurement is, without doubt, one of the most important factors determining the competitive functioning of the single market. Each year, billions of euro are spent on purchasing public works or services, and there is therefore a need for the public procurement rules currently in force to be reviewed so that they are consistent with the main goal of public procurement policy, i.e. meeting citizens’ needs as well as guaranteeing the effective use of public money. When stating my views on this issue, I have, on several occasions, stressed the need to establish an EU-wide public procurement system based on common principles and to move towards a more effective electronic procurement system. At certain stages, this would enable us to eliminate the human factor, which is why the current public procurement system is not very effective, lacks transparency, is too complicated and inflexible. I believe that the establishment and introduction of common principles throughout the EU would open up much greater opportunities to purchase works, goods or services at significantly lower prices, which would allow the creation of a more transparent, clearer and better functioning public procurement system.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE), in writing.(RO) The review of the Public Procurement Directive is one of the most important undertakings embarked on by Commissioner Barnier and will have a particular impact on the whole economy, and not just on the contracting authorities. SMEs are the driving force of economic growth in the EU. This is why their growth must be sustained, including through public procurement. In their current form, the procedures are far too complex to enable SMEs to participate in tenders. This is why I support splitting contracts into lots to make the procedures more accessible to SMEs. At the same time, I think that the rules need to offer public authorities flexibility. Using price as the sole criterion has led to unsatisfactory results in many cases. I feel that it is much more sensible to take into account the product’s entire life cycle when estimating the cost, which also means its environmental impact, where appropriate. I think that, as long as the link is maintained between the contract’s subject matter and the criteria set, public procurement can be used in a pragmatic way to establish synergy with other European policies and achieve other objectives, such as environmental targets or encouraging innovation.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa (S&D), in writing. – Public procurement policy could be a real driver in promoting high-quality jobs, wages and conditions, equality, skills development, training, and environmental policies, and in providing incentives for research and innovation.

The legislative proposal to overhaul public procurement policy, which the Commission is to present shortly, should include provisions to ensure that the lowest price is no longer the determining factor for the award of contracts, and that it is replaced by the criterion of most economically advantageous tender, in terms of economic, social and environmental benefit.

The current provisions on subcontracting should also be strengthened. The use of several levels of subcontracting can cause problems in terms of compliance with collective agreements, working conditions and health and safety standards. Public authorities should be informed of all details of the use of subcontractors before a contract is concluded. Indeed, the Commission should investigate whether we need further rules on the award of subcontracts – for example, to establish a chain of responsibility.

There should also be a reassessment of the appropriate level of thresholds for supply and services contracts – which should be raised if necessary – in order to facilitate, inter alia, not-for-profit and social economy operators’ access to public procurement contracts.

 
  
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  Sandra Kalniete (PPE) , in writing. (LV) On the subject of the modernisation of public procurement in Europe, I should like to draw attention to a number of things. First, the criterion of lowest price should not be the determining one and must be replaced by the most economically advantageous tender, taking into account the entire life-cycle costs of goods, services or works. Second, the legislation must be flexible, so that institutions such as hospitals and schools can have access to healthy and value-for-money food, rather than merely the cheapest available, and so that they can have the opportunity to choose regional produce, which would prevent further environmental pollution. Third, we must encourage measures that would reduce the transaction costs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); for example, the ‘once only’ principle, whereby, at the end of the procurement process, original documents would be required only from the successful tenderer, or the development of a standardised ‘procurement passport’ in the form of an electronic registration system storing the relevant certification documents. Fourth, in order to prevent and fight corruption, more efficient reporting practices, including exchanges of information between Member States on the exclusion of unsound bidders, as well as the exclusion from public procurement of bidders found guilty of misconduct until they have undergone ‘self-cleaning’. Fifth, practical progress in Europe on standardisation and infrastructure issues, on e-signatures and time-stamps, for example, on which the Commission must develop common standards, is essential for the development of e-procurement.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing.(RO) Public procurement in the European Union is a strategic segment of the single market, while also being a key element for fulfilling the Europe 2020 strategy objectives. Local and regional authorities feature among the most important purchasers in Europe, thereby playing a key role in applying the regulations for awarding public procurement contracts. I think that more attention needs to be paid to these authorities, which must be included in the process for reviewing EU public procurement regulations. This process should provide them with increased autonomy. Greater attention needs to be focused on SMEs, too, as they form the backbone of the EU economy, offering huge potential in terms of creating new jobs, growth and innovation. Furthermore, a balance has to be struck between the desire to simplify procedures and the need to ensure fair competition in public contracts and achieve the best results. I think that improving and simplifying the procedures will help allocate the funds more quickly, achieve higher rates of absorption, ensure the funds are used more effectively and reduce errors.

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE), in writing. (FI) The modernisation of public procurement and the reform of the rules connected with it will be one of the most important tasks of this current Parliament. The public procurement of services, labour and goods accounts for some 17% of the EU’s GDP. The issue concerns a significant sum, therefore, but also a lot more.

Public procurement will be one of the Union’s main instruments in achieving the Europe 2020 targets. For example, public procurement may play a much bigger role than before in the promotion of new, resource-efficient innovations. It is especially important now to adhere to the principle contained in Parliament’s report that the lowest price criterion is not the determining factor: we need a far more ambitious set of criteria, which combines economic, social and environmental benefits. It is also crucially important to ensure that quality services are also on offer in areas where there is not necessarily always any genuine market competition.

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D), in writing.(DE) In the modernisation of public procurement, the award criterion of the economically most advantageous offer is no longer of benefit to us. In times when we are facing economic crisis and climate change, it is wrong simply to ignore socio-political and ecologically sustainable services. I am in favour of adopting the report, but now the work begins in earnest. I advocate the criterion of the most advantageous offer in terms of sustainability, in order to bring these essential political ideas into the markets and into economic life. The secret is in the mix: of course price has a significant role to play, but we need to get used to the idea that innovative, social, long-term criteria have an equally crucial role that cannot be simply ignored. These social and quality criteria, which must be effective at national and regional level, need to be binding contractual requirements not just on contractors, but also on subcontractors. I consider it important that social standards, respect for collective agreements and the payment of statutory minimum wages in the performance of the contract, as well as in the upstream and downstream supply chains, are made binding criteria in the award of contracts, in order to maintain the principle of equal pay for equal work in the same location. The social aspect needs to be a common thread throughout public procurement.

 
  
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  Jutta Steinruck (S&D), in writing.(DE) Public procurement not only needs to be made more flexible; it also needs to be made more sustainable. We must use the revision of the procurement directives as an opportunity for a change of strategy in favour of qualitative growth. We need to use public procurement to get rid of existing inequalities and to provide ecological incentives: it is a matter of good work on public contracts, adhering to collective agreements and maintaining and checking social and ecological standards. These requirements are more important than ever when faced with strict budgetary constraints. I am pleased that the report incorporates some of these demands, particularly the anchoring of social and ecological standards and the removal of the criterion of the cheapest offer. We need to maintain this line in the announced revision of the directives at the end of the year. We need to go even further, however: it is a matter of the protection of posted workers, compliance with working standards and collective pay agreements and good work. I hope that the Commission has noted the signal we have sent and will take it into consideration when making its proposals. Public procurement is not a market-based instrument for achieving the aims of the EU 2020 strategy, but rather needs to be used to develop the social and ecological aspects of the European project further.

 
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