Improving EU Public Procurement Event in Brussels

Improving EU Public Procurement: A Vision from Industrial Cleaning, Private Security, and Contract Catering Services 

Last 14 November, the EU social partner organizations of the industrial cleaning, private security and contract catering sectors organized in Brussels a joint event – IMPPROVING EU PUBLIC PROCUREMENT – to discuss the current state of the EU public procurement provisions, their impact on the respective sectors and possible avenues for improvement for the future. These three sectors share significant common features – providing fundamental services to people and companies that are fundamental to their safety, wellbeing and health, on a very labour-intensive model – and are all very dependent on public clients.

More than 60 participants from different EU countries and sectors have gathered to debate, exchange about specific features and characteristics of their sectors and reflect on what solutions could be adopted to change a system that is so relevant to them. This event represents the first occasion for the three sectors to work together on a topic of common interest, and follows a series of individual, sector-specific initiatives to discuss and propose concrete solutions to identify and address the shortcomings of the current EU legislation on public procurement.

The event was opened by MEP Marie-Pierre Vedrenne (Renew Europe), member of the International Trade and Employment Committees in the European Parliament, who pointed out the role of public procurement as a driver for sustainable growth, inspired by the same principles that are at the basis of our European social and economic models, and its strategic importance in the context of the international positioning of the European Union. In this context, she continued, the procurement of labour-intensive services brings the same strategic dimension as the purchase of goods or the construction of works, while contributing further to a more equitable and prosperous society. And for this reason, she underlined the need to quickly address the main challenges associated to the implementation of the directive, including the excessive reliance of public tenders on the lowest price as the main awarding criteria in public tenders, and the lack of monitoring mechanisms from contracting authorities.


Following to this introductory remark, a presentation on the recent report of the European Parliament on the social impact of public procurement was given by Valentina Caimi and Mathias Maucher, respectively scientific coordinator at Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini and project coordinator at Social Services Europe and co-authors of the study. The presentation given during the event can be downloaded here.


Challenges Outlined by Industry Leaders:

Lorenzo Mattioli, EFCI President (picture below) highlighted the fundamental role played by the cleaning industry in navigating societies out of the pandemic. He pointed out that the “lowest-price criterion is the main obstacle for companies to continue providing the highest standards in service and working conditions.” Download his speech here.


Terje Mikkelsen, Vice-President of UNIEuropa for private security services, presented the unique challenges of the private security sector, focusing on skills, proximity to sensitive activities, safety-related functions, working conditions, and job attractiveness.


Rocco Renaldi, Secretary General of FoodServiceEurope, outlined the main challenges faced by the contract catering industry, addressing sharp increases in food costs and emphasizing the central social dimension of the service provided – nutrition.

Panel discussions

1 – Shortcomings of the Directives and current Social Partner actions to fill the gaps

2 –  Recommendations for a better way forward 

In the second part, two panel discussion were organized. With representatives of the two sectors, we discuss both how the current provisions of the directive have fallen short to ensure that quality is preferred over price (and what initiatives have been put in place by national and EU social partner organizations to fill the gaps) and in which way should the directive change in the future, to guarantee that public procurement provisions can serve at best the interests of businesses, workers and the final users. Speakers of the first panel were Alexander Frank, Director of EU Affairs at COESS – the EU confederation of private security companies, Virginie Demoucron, Political Secretary at EFFAT, the EU trade union confederation for the agricultural and tourism sector and Jo Zanders, Board member of ABSU-UGBN, the national Belgian social partner organization representing cleaning companies. A second panel then took place, discussing possible avenues for improving the directive, in the runup to the European elections next year, also looking at concrete initiatives adopted at the respective national levels. Participants in the panel were Agnes Nagy, representing the national contract catering industry of Hungary, Pierre-Yves Le Dilosquer, economist at the French social partner association representing cleaning companies FEP, Eduardo Cobas, second vice-Chairman of COESS, the EU confederation of private security companies and Mark Bergfeld, Director of Property and UNICare at UNIEuropa. All speakers agreed on the main drivers for an effective and solid reorientation of the EU public procurement system: investing on the professionalization of contracting agencies and operators, at all levels; stressing the role of social dialogue and social partners and safeguarding their autonomy in the context of collective bargaining, the involvement in which should in no way be seen as a hindrance to competition; the introduction of mechanisms for price increase of already awarded contracts to allow the recovery of costs increases, also on the basis of sector-elaborated indexes. These are only some of the conclusions brought forward during the discussions, and offer a first body of possible, concrete considerations to develop further.

???? Dive into the event recap aftermovie