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ISSUE 66 page 3

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EP polls show left, right gain as centre loses
 AS WE APPROACH THE MAY ELECTION FOR THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT the frequency of polls published on the likely result increases. While, as usual, they come up with somewhat different findings most agree with the ‘poll of polls’  for the organisation Poll Watch that the centre, liberal parties will leak votes to both left and right.  The centre-left Socialists and Democrats group comes out marginally ahead of the centre-right EPP. The big losers appear to be the liberal ALDE group while both Euro-sceptic parties on the right and the left-wing GUE/NGL are set to bolster their presence in the parliament. The elections will held in unprecedented circumstances as, for the first time since direct elections began in 1979, the EU economy has been
in a deep depression for most of the previous five years. This had led some to predict that the long-term decline in turn-out, down to 43% in 2009, will be reversed as voters register their disgust with austerity while general ‘anti-European’ feeling invigorates far-right party strength. Measures designed by Europhiles to boost participation, such as debates between the candidates for Commission President, might, therefore, backfire as a large number of Euro-sceptic MEPs would make law-making more difficult. The predicted tripling in number of non-aligned MEPs could produce a new far-right party group.

Poll Watch results 5/3/14



New public procurement directive aims to stop ‘cheapest is best’ syndrome

FOLLOWING TRADE UNION INPUT (SEE ISSUE 57) AND the usual ping-pong of the EU legislative process (see issue 61) the new directives on public, utilities and services procurement have been finally passed by the European Parliament. Most stakeholders welcomed the new laws, including the Socialist and Democrats (S&D) group and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). They impose a mandatory social clause guaranteeing that labour laws and collective agreements must be respected by contractors for public sector work.  The new directives also bring in the important concept of Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT). This allows public bodies to take into account environmental, social and innovation criteria rather than being forced to pick the lowest-priced. ‘Abnormally low’ bids for work will be closely monitored although the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) regretted the fact that ‘EU institutions did not seize the opportunity to solve’ the problem. As spending on goods and services by public authorities accounts for 18% of the entire economic output of the EU, large numbers of workers will be affected. Marc Tarabella MEP (S & D), who was the rapporteur for the legislation, said ‘These new rules are a step forward in the fight against social dumping’ while ETUC Confederal Secretary Veronica Nilsson  commented ‘The revised directive on public procurement will allow public authorities to make sustainable choices and make sure that workers’ rights are upheld’. She also believes that the new laws could ensure quality of goods and services procured but warns that the rules remain complex and much is left up to the national authorities such as reserving contracts for health, social and cultural services to the public sector, mutuals and social enterprises. Water services are excluded from the directives.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who currently scoop up about 35% of the value of  public procurement, are thought to be favoured by a simplification in the bidding process, which will now be done electronically, and the ability to divide up big contracts. Member States now have two years to implement the directives but the U.K. government has indicated that it will accelerate this timetable.

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