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Brussels, 14 March 2011

Public procurement: the Commission asks France to open to competition public procurement for the purchase of certain geographical information

The European Commission today decided to call on France to amend its legislation so as to repeal the provision reserving certain contracts for the supply of geographical information for the Institut géographique national (IGN). Under French law, State services or bodies must buy their large-scale reference geographical information from the IGN, the integrated geographical information system covering the entire territory of France and which comprises four geographical databases. The Commission takes the view that this requirement is at odds with EU rules on public procurement and that France should have opened up these contracts to competition, as the geographical information in question could be provided, in most cases, by other economic operators. The Commission has sent France a reasoned opinion, the second step in the infringement procedure. If France does not comply with its obligations under EU public procurement law within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

What is the aim of the EU rules on public procurement?

Public procurement contracts establish the framework for public expenditure in the fields of construction, goods and services. They relate to the purchase of all kinds of goods and services, from IT systems to waste water purification facilities, shipbuilding or advisory services. It is estimated that total public procurement expenditure in the EU represents around 17% of GDP. The open and transparent evaluation procedures laid down by the EU rules on public procurement promote competition, offer better protection against corruption and enable taxpayers to benefit from more effective and better value services.

Which aspect of these rules is France not observing?

In 2004, France passed a law delegating to the IGN the task of creating and updating an integrated metric precision geographical information system covering all French territory. This system is known as a large-scale reference system (RGE) and comprises four digitised and interoperable databases. The law in question also requires State services and bodies to purchase large-scale reference data for their needs from the IGN, with no possibility of using another supplier. In other words, the public procurement contracts in question are all awarded to the IGN by mutual agreement, in contravention of the EU rules on the award of public procurement contracts which provide for publicity measures and the publication of invitations to tender (Directive 2004/18/EC).

It is this requirement, not the mission of the IGN to create and update the large-scale reference system, that the Commission considers to be at odds with EU law on public procurement. Similar or equivalent products do, in fact, exist on the market, at least for most of the data in the reference system, but the economic operators responsible for these products cannot, by law, offer them to State services and bodies, although they are allowed to supply them to local authorities, for example, which are not obliged to buy from the IGN. The current situation does not therefore allow for any competition, as the IGN is the sole supplier of the products in question for State services and bodies.

How does this harm EU citizens or companies?

The Commission believes that this French legislation stops certain companies from gaining access to public procurement contracts, which may lead to a waste of public money and stop State services and bodies from benefiting from more effective and better value services for the supply of geographical data.

For further information

Public procurement:

For the latest information about infringement procedures launched against the Member States:

To find out more about infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/162

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