Local councils welcome new EU procurement rules

The new public procurement rules passed by the European parliament on Wednesday are welcomes by the organisation for local councils in Sweden, the news agency TT reports. "I believe this is very positive for ours members," says Mathias Sylwan, legal expert at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.

The Social Democrat MEP, and former mayor of Östersund, Jens Nilsson believes power has been put back into the hands of those who are procuring on behalf of local councils. "Something that thousands of local politicians have been concerned about for over 15 years will become much easier," he told TT.

Today's parliamentary decision comes after two years when various parts of the EU-machinery have have tried to come up with better rules for public procurement.

Instead of just having to go for the lowest price, public procurers will now be able to set more specific criteria concerning for example collective bargaining agreements among the bidder's employees or to ensure that the food bought for schools and hospitals is organic.

"As a local politician I found that all the legal experts said the same thing: "'hold on, you can't set the criteria like that. The EU won't allow it'. But then it turned out that they did have those criteria in Denmark and Italy, but not in Sweden," says Jens Nilsson.

"All the legal experts in all the local councils listen to the Competition Authority and have repeated what they have been saying. I don't think they have been fair. They have blamed things on the EU-directive that in reality have been home-made," says Nilsson.

The Swedish local councils have been criticised for not being very good at procurement and shaping suitable criteria for the process. Now, Mathias Sylwan at the Association of Local Authorities and Regions hopes that things will improve.

"Overall, I'd say that the new directive increases the possibility for Swedish legislators to make things easier for the local councils," he tells TT.