15 January 2014 | Will Green
MEPs have backed a new regulation to stop suppliers in non-EU countries bidding for public sector contracts in Europe if they do not offer the same opportunities in their home markets to European firms.
The move was supported by 479 votes to 184 in the European Parliament with 17 abstentions, amid fears of “protectionism”. Further talks will take place before the regulation is finalised.
The proposed rule would apply to public contracts worth more than €5 million (£4.1 million) and to those in which goods or services from outside the EU make up more than 50 per cent of the value involved, but “least developed countries” would be excluded from the measure.
During a debate prior to the vote European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht backed the regulation, saying: “I am a firm believer in open markets. Europe’s public sector market is one of the most open in the world and should remain so. This stands in contrast to many third [non-EU] countries.
“Trade partners should not take our openness for granted.”
But Emma McClarkin, Conservative MEP for the UK, described it as a “very dangerous piece of legislation” and a “protectionist trade measure”.
“The Commission’s argument is an attempt to wrestle control of public procurement from member states,” she said. “The EU has no idea how third countries will react to being locked out of the EU markets.”
Edite Estrela, Socialist Party MEP for Portugal, said: “We must resist such a race to the bottom where one protectionist measure leads to another.”