Willem Janssen presents research in European Parliament

From 'how to buy' to 'what to buy' in EU legislation

On 15 January, dr. Willem Janssen, associate Professor of European and Dutch Public Procurement Law presented the final report titled ‘Shaping Sustainable Public Procurement laws in the European Union – An analysis of the legislative development from 'how to buy' to 'what to buy' in current and future EU legislative initiatives’ at the The Greens/EFA Group of the European Parliament together with esteemed colleagues prof. Roberto Caranta (Turin University), prof. Olga Martin-Ortega (Greenwich University), and prof. Marta Andhov (Copenhagen University).

Research on regulating sustainable public procurement

In their presentation, they discussed the main findings of their analysis of the legislative development from 'how to buy' to 'what to buy' in current and future EU legislative initiatives. The current EU public procurement (and concessions) framework laid down in the 2014 directives enables Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) to a relevant extent, but it also sets some unnecessary hindrances and falls well short of mandating SPP. The EU Green Deal has set ambitious targets for the EU that may be achieved only if all available tools – including procurement – are harnessed to this end. This means asserting the initiatives flowing from the EU Green Deal with provisions on mandatory SPP, including going beyond Green Public Procurement (GPP). While the goals set in the EU Green Deal are vital, the social aspect of procurement should also be reinforced.

This analysis focuses first of all on the legislative initiatives tabled by the European Commission. Most mandatory SPP initiatives cannot but take place at a sectoral level, but consistency in future legislation needs to be achieved. At the end of the day, a new approach to public buying will have to be devised, ultimately leading to changes in the 2014 Public Procurement Directives as well. The 2014 Directives fall short of ensuring that economic operators engaged in environmental and social dumping are barred from procurement markets, thus imperilling the competitive playing field. More generally, the current provisions relevant for SPP are not fully coordinated.

Study for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament

This Study is conducted in light of the Greens/EFA Group’s long-standing demand to make sustainability criteria mandatory in public procurement by formulating concrete proposals for how the EU public procurement framework could be adapted or complemented in order to drive such sustainability considerations in public purchasing throughout the entire EU. In due course, the report will be published.

This topic has been central to Janssen’s work and includes a future edited volume which is due to be published this year:

  • W.A. Janssen, R. Caranta (eds.), Mandatory Sustainability Requirements in EU Public Procurement Law: Reflections on a Paradigm Shift, Bloomsbury Hart, forthcoming 2023