|Vol 7, No.11, 15.3.01, p8
TWO coalitions of towns and cities are warning the European Commission that proposed rules on public procurement will make spending decisions less transparent and more damaging to the environment.
The Eurocities group is writing to EU internal market chief Frits Bolkestein and his environment counterpart Margot Wallström to declare its opposition to the rules, which have already been condemned by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).
The group of 53 cities - including Athens, Birmingham, Bordeaux, Brussels, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Newcastle, Seville, Stockholm and Turin - is also preparing a response to a Commission communication on the existing rules, which they say could outlaw many of the 'green' spending policies already in place.
"Cities don't want to take a step backwards," said Elisabeth Soderstrom, of the City of Stockholm's environment and health protection unit. "If this was forced through, many of them would be breaking the rules - they would test these rules to their limits." She says the directive would force some administrations to hide the green conditions they set for public contractors, making the tendering process even less transparent.
The Union executive dismisses the claim that the new internal market rules could harm the environment.
"The problem is that sometimes environmental criteria are used as a pretext for corrupt spending decisions," said a spokesman for Bolkestein. "But there's absolutely nothing to prevent people using environmental criteria for public contracts - what they can't do is award a contract simply because one particular company is supposedly greener than another."
But campaigners say the measures would impose severe restrictions on the green criteria that local and national governments use when awarding public contracts for goods and services.
While administrations could take into account the environmental effects of goods in themselves, they fear they would be forced to ignore damage caused by their manufacture.
"The proposal ignores production processes," said Filipa Pimentel of Greenpeace. "It doesn't even take pollution into account." She says the proposed obligation to choose the tender which is 'economically the most advantageous to the contracting authority' would leave other important costs out of the equation.
"What about economic damage to other countries - and what about climate change? These are not costs to the contracting authority," she said.
The CEMR has drafted amendments for the European Parliament's internal market committee, which is due to consider the proposals in two months' time. Among them are moves to recognise eco-labelled products and the EU-administered environmental audit scheme, EMAS, as valid criteria for the award of contracts.
Critics add that the new rules may have little impact on transparency unless controls are enforced. Administrations fail to tender as many as 80% of eligible contracts
EU-wide, according to some estimates.
"This is detrimental to those who do try to live up to the rules," said Helene Lund, Socialist deputy mayor of the Danish town of Farum. "It's absurd to put down more barriers when so many authorities don't seem to take them seriously - this is what's putting Danes off Europe."
Two coalitions of towns and cities are warning the European Commission that proposed rules on public procurement will make spending decisions less transparent and more damaging to the environment.
|Environment, Internal Markets