Public Procurement: EBC meets European Commission to discuss impact of rising material and energy prices

After the summer break, EBC President Philip van Nieuwenhuizen and EBC Policy Officer Spyros Mathioudakis met Ms Katharina Knapton-Vierlich, Head of Unit for Public Procurement at the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW), to discuss on pressing issues facing the construction sector regarding public procurement, notably in the context of the rising material and fuel prices.

President van Nieuwenhuizen informed the Commission of the crucial importance of European coordination regarding support measures for construction contractors across the EU following the disruptions affecting public and private market since the war in Ukraine. Following the exorbitant rises in the prices of materials and energy, many construction SMEs are facing humongous pressure, sometimes having to cancel their participation in existing projects. Currently, diverse levels of support are offered to SMEs across different Member States, ranging from robust measures in certain cases, to no support at all.

EBC called on the Commission to provide national governments with guidance that would encourage more streamlined support measures across the EU, with the aim to ensure a level playing field for all actors in the Single Market. The Commission officials informed EBC that the Commission is following the developments and that several adaptation tools are already at the disposal of Member States with the current framework of the Public Procurement Directive.

President van Nieuwenhuizen also informed the Commission of innovative public procurement approaches already implemented in parts of the Netherlands that could help secure a future-proof infrastructure for the EU. An innovative approach could be focused on trust between contractors and public authorities to deliver quality projects, whereby the cost features among other elements but is not the predominant deciding factor. He suggested the revision of the current limits inscribed in the Public Procurement Directive, to incentivize the spread of such novel approaches.

Ms Knapton-Vierlich informed EBC that she would be assuming a new role, taking up the position on Head of Unit for Construction as of mid-September. President van Nieuwenhuizen wished her a lot of success in her new role, with EBC looking forward to continuing the already fruitful collaboration with that unit. A follow-up meeting with Mr. Jean-Yves Muylle, her successor in the Public Procurement Unit, was agreed to pursue the work towards a more SME-friendly public procurement framework.