Chapter 6: Protectionism on the rise? Modernization of EU public procurement rules during the economic crisis
Maarten Meulenbelt, Partner in charge of public procurement in a leading Brussels law firm Sidley LLP, explains in Chapter 6 how the development of open and well-functioning competition between companies during the public purchasing processes aims at reducing prices and guaranteeing better services for Europe’s citizens. While discriminatory technical standards have been pushed back and the protection of bidders improved over the years, the Barroso II Commission engaged in what may be described as the fourth major modernization of EU’s public procurement rules. The scope of the rules have been expanded by encouraging procurement to achieve wider policy goals, including innovation, employment, environmental protection, and sustainable production (with some extraterritorial effects). During the times of an economic down-turn, however, such expansions seem to merit particular vigilance. The risk of national policies with wider policy goals being used for protectionist purposes appears evident. The national governments are under pressure to spend taxpayers’ money in a way that benefits local companies and local labour. The questions do not limit themselves to intra-EU situations, but expand also to EU’s international trade relations as the EU attempts to improve the market access of EU companies to third countries in the context of the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA).
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