Bolkestein pressured to relax anti-Mafia stance

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Publication Date 06/12/2001
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Date: 06/12/01

SINGLE market chief Frits Bolkestein is under pressure to water down plans to squeeze-out the Mafia and other organised crime gangs from the EU's €1-trillion public works market.

Draft rules launched last year by Bolkestein call for a ban on all organisations that have been judged to be part of the criminal underworld from any public contract. He said last month the Commission would also call for member states to set up an information-sharing network to stop known gangs finding lucrative public contracts abroad - where awarding authorities may be unaware of their criminal links.

But EU diplomats say governments fear public authorities would face a huge administrative burden if they were forced to filter out all would-be contractors that were members of criminal gangs or had been found guilty of corruption or fraud.

They say public bodies would be held liable for unwittingly awarding contracts to villains. They want the rules changed to say they should "not knowingly" award contracts to organised gangs - a far less onerous requirement.

At the same time, they fear setting up the data sharing network through a formal directive would mean authorities would have to pore over thousands of pages of information concerning gangsters.

Bolkestein's calls for a data-sharing network came in response to claims by Italian public works minister Pietro Lunardi that "one would have to live with the Mafia" when carrying out the raft of public works projects planned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Italian MEP Armando Cossutta said Lunardi's statement had "extremely serious political and legal implications" - and that Italy could be acting in breach of EU laws.

But Bolkestein said Italy had always demonstrated its full commitment in favour of the fight against the Mafia. Contracts for public works and for purchases of goods and services by public authorities and public utilities account for around 14 of the Union's GDP.

European Commissioner for the Single Market, Frits Bolkestein, is under pressure to relax plans aimed at eliminating the mafia and other organised crime gangs from the EU's €1 trillion public works market.

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