Commission bids to green EU public purchasing

Draft directives include first ever reference to environment in procurement conditions

The European Commission has proposed that EU public authorities should be obliged to take into account environmental considerations when awarding work contracts or purchasing new equipment. If adopted by governments and the European Parliament, the new rules, contained in two draft directives, would introduce the first ever reference to environment in European public procurement legislation.

Presented to EU internal market ministers yesterday after adoption by the Commission a fortnight ago, the draft directives aim to simplify and restructure the EU's public procurement rules. These oblige authorities to choose the "most economically advantageous" bid in a competitive tendering process.

For the first time, purchasers will have to consider "environment" alongside traditional factors such as "price" and "quality" before choosing the best bid. The changes will affect public supply, service and works contracts and public utilities in the water, energy and transport sectors. The Commission says that contracts let by these bodies account for around 14% of the EU's GDP.

Although the rules will not dictate what weight purchasers should give to environment in arriving at the final decision, Commission officials say its inclusion in the criteria is a "significant first step" in greening public purchasing at its "most sensitive" point. Moreover, authorities will also be able to attach environmental conditions to the execution of contracts. A local authority would be able to insist on anti-noise walls being built alongside motorways, for instance.

The Commission's environment directorate says the proposals are a victory for its drive to green public procurement, an area in which it says there has been a "reluctance to open the door specifically to environment." The directorate is due to release a guide on practical ways of integrating environment into public procurement in the summer.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. See also Commission press release on the proposals IP/00/461 dated 10/5/00 and speech by internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein SPEECH/00/186 dated 22/5/00 on Rapid, plus Commission public procurement pages.

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