On Friday 15th January the European Parliament approved the new EU Public Procurement Directives, paving the way for their formal adoption by the Council of Ministers in the near future.
The new Directives represent a major overhaul of the procurement rules across the EU. With Member States spending 18% of GDP on procuring goods, services and works, will the changes have an impact on immigrant integration?
The main aim of the EU Procurement Directives has always been to help public bodies get the best value for money by opening up tenders to competition from all over the EU. The detailed rules and procedures put in place to achieve this goal favour bids that bring the most economic benefits and make it difficult for public bodies to take due account of the social benefits that could be achieved, such as providing equal employment opportunities for migrants. In addition, the administrative burden placed on tendering companies puts small immigrant-owned businesses at a disadvantage, meaning that they are particularly under-represented among suppliers of public contracts (a more detailed analysis is available in the EWSI Integration Dossier on Public Procurement, authored by MPG).
The new rules have the potential to change this. Firstly, they allow public bodies to take into account social aspects of the process of production or provision of the goods or services when awarding contracts, for example the employment conditions of workers performing the contract. This is good news for the MPG’s BUYDIS project, which seeks to identify and experiment anti-discrimination clauses in public contracts awarded by local authorities. Secondly, the rules should allow for better access to the market for immigrant-owned businesses by simplifying the documentation requirements in procurement procedures, creating a standardised document for selection purposes, and offering incentives to public bodies to divide contracts into smaller lots that are more accessible to small businesses.
This all comes in good time for the kick-off of the Diversity in the Economy and Local Integration project later this month, which will see MPG team up with the Council of Europe and ten European cities to facilitate access of migrant-owned SMEs to public and private procurement and help local governments develop procurement policies that are consistent with the principles of equal opportunities, integration and diversity management.