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European Commission: Response to EASPD supported petition on the European Union's Public Procurement Directive

With the support of EASPD, Kehitysvammaisten Palvelusäätiö (KVPS) submitted a petition to the European Parliament Committee regarding the European Union’s Public Procurement Directive. The petition disputed the Directive’s national implementation in Finland which was believed to have resulted in disability based discrimination.

What was the petition about?
The petition was launched by a group of Finnish families who were unhappy with their treatment during the tendering of housing in Tampere and Oulu. These families included family members with intellectual disabilities, who were residents of the housing. In both instances, it was argued that the public tenders did not provide an adequate method of consultation for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities or their families. Instead, it was argued that there was a lack understanding for clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These clients and their families were unable to voice their needs for assistance and support; express their life goals or participate in choosing their service provider.

In both cases the incumbent social provider was replaced with new ones, creating a sense of powerless, stress and anxiety for the housing units’ residents and their families. The procurement method, the families argue, was in violation of several conventions on human and fundamental rights due to discrimination on the basis of disability, which is prohibited under Article 21 and Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

The petition requested that the European Parliament Committee on Petitions investigated the procurement practice adopted by the Finnish government in relation to the provision of services for persons with disabilities. KVPS and the families involved asked for “the Committee on Petitions to remind the Finnish government that it must give appropriate consideration to the fundamental and human rights of citizens using essential services for persons with disabilities, such as the right to be heard and the right to the continuity of essential long-term services.”  

Read the full petition here: Petition To The Parliament

Did the European Parliament support the petition?
The petition was declared admissible by the European Parliament Committee and allowed to continue for a response by the European Commission.

How did the European Commission respond?

However, in its response the Commission concluded that it “could not find evidence of a breach of EU public procurement law by the Finnish authorities which could justify an investigation.” The Commission asserted that, under the rules on public procurement, “it is the free choice of the Finnish authorities to tender out the contracts for the provision of services to disabled people.” Although EU public procurement legislation coordinates procurement procedures in the EU across all sectors, national authorities are responsible for ensuring that, whenever a public procurement procedure is launched, it is completed with full respect for the fundamental rights of the beneficiaries. This, the Commission noted, includes compliance with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), expressly Article 19, which recognises the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others.

Although the Commission could not find evidence of a breach of EU public procurement law it did highlight the most recent Directives on EU public procurement, enforced in April 2016, which encourages the consideration of social responsibility in the context of public procurement. It is hoped that these Directives will promote social inclusion and ensure the compliance of tender awards with social and labour legislation. Through the use of these Directives, public authorities can incentivise companies to develop socially responsible products and services.

Read the full response here: The Commission's Response

Next Steps
For EASPD KVPS’s petition and its response from the Commission highlights the ambiguity within the public procurement laws regarding the complete application of the UNCRPD. As a result, EASPD will continue to work with its members and the EU to ensure the full implementation of the UNCRPD and support for disability service providers within public procurement laws. Below you can find EASPD’s Policy Paper on the public procurement directive, which features EASPD recommendations to ensure success in these aims.

EASPD Policy paper: The New Public Procurement Directive