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European Commission – Press Release

Public contracts: the Commission calls on Bulgaria to guarantee respect for the principles of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination

Brussels, 16 June 2011 – The European Commission today called on Bulgaria to ensure full compliance with the EU rules on public contracts, in the light of a tender for security services launched by Elektroenergien Sistemen Operator EAD ("ESO EAD", a subsidiary of the national electricity company which manages the networks).

In the tender for the award of the contract, two of the selection criteria were such as to give an unfair advantage to Bulgarian service providers or companies based in Bulgaria or holding a security certificate issued by just one Member State.

This constitutes an infringement of the fundamental principles of the European law on public contracts, in particular the principle of non-discrimination. The Commission has taken the step of addressing a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria. Unless Bulgaria responds satisfactorily within two months, the Commission could take the matter to the Court of Justice.

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

Public contracts define the arrangements for public expenditure on buildings, goods and services and relate to the purchase of all manner of goods and services, from computer systems, waste water treatment systems and shipbuilding to consultancy. It is estimated that all the public contracts awarded in the EU represent, together, some 17 % of GDP. The open and transparent rules for public contracts imposed by the EU reinforce competition, provide better protection against corruption and allow taxpayers to benefit from more effective services and better value for money.

How is Bulgaria not respecting these rules and how is this affecting its citizens and businesses?

On 5 August 2008, ESO EAD launched an invitation to tender for the conclusion of a framework contract for armed security guards to protect electrical energy plants owned by ESO EAD and NEK (Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania, the national energy company). The estimated value of the contract was 1 million euros and its term was 36 months. The EU rules on public contracts and the Treaty oblige public authorities to respect the principles of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination.

The use of selection criteria such as possession of a specific security at work certificate valid only in one Member State (in this case the UK), without accepting equivalent certificates, and the requirement of administrative authorisation reserved exclusively for Bulgarian nationals contravene the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination. Moreover, one criterion for the award of the contract was amended during the procedure, which contravenes the principles of transparency and equal treatment for tenderers.

These irregularities may have had a negative impact on companies not able to participate in the tender procedure and, more generally, on citizens, as the contract may not have been awarded to the bid offering the best value for money.

For more information:

Public contracts:

The latest on infringement proceedings launched against Member States:

To find out more about infringement proceedings, see MEMO/11/408


Chantal Hughes (+32 2 296 44 50)

Catherine Bunyan (+32 2 299 65 12)

Carmel Dunne (+32 2 299 88 94)

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