The last directives on the subject of government contracts were approved back in 2004. The legislation in question now requires an overhaul in the light of the need to strengthen the competitiveness of European companies in relation to their foreign partners, adapt EU regulations to conform with the revised regulations in the Government contracts agreement (GCA) and bring them more into line with WTO requirements, while integrating the evolution of EU jurisprudence. Furthermore, the earlier directives were conceived in an economic climate which was completely different from the one in which we now operate. The deep economic crisis requires us to face new challenges bravely, using government contracts as a key tool for economic recovery.
Hence why government contract reform will increase transparency and efficacy, improve procedural flexibility and, above all, place social and environmental criteria at the heart of bid assessment. Using government funds, member states will be in a possession to push sustainable growth forward and direct the market towards loyal competition, a market in which businesses investing in quality and innovation will be recompensed. Prior to this reform, there was no cohesive legislative framework capable of ensuring compliance with and application of common basic regulations. Such regulations are necessary if bureaucracy is to be simplified, loyal competition conditions are to be improved and the social rights, necessary to eliminate the inequalities still present within the internal market, are to be respected.
The benefits of the new legislation for businesses also meets their needs for simplification. The principal changes involve the tender submission phase when, thanks to such electronic tools as self-certification, time and procedural costs will be significantly reduced.
The other directive advances involve the reinforcement and clarification of the transition from an in-house contract to one involving government agencies. In fact, legislators have, for the first time, codified government-public collaboration, making it now possible to draw a clear line which will exclude contracts between government agencies and entities with a limited amount of private capital from the scope of application of the directive. This provision represents a significant step forward in terms of government accounting, currently subject to major restrictions, since these new regulations governing cooperation between government agencies will allow government spending to be rationalised without undermining the standard of government services to the community.
On this subject I would like to point out that these directives place the emphasis on the protection of general economic interest services by highlighting the principles of unrestricted administration by public authorities at all levels. It will be up to these authorities to decide if, how and to what extent public interest tasks will be undertaken - as well as in collaboration with other government agencies.
This reform marks an essential stage for the harmonisation of the internal market. Our efforts are now moving forward in the right direction; that of economic recovery, sustainable, innovative growth, respect for social rights as well as our environment. The task now rests with the member states, since it will be their responsibility to transpose the directives into their own national legislation and it is my wish that they should do so while adhering as closely as possible to the principles which have inspired it.