Eurodiaconia has launched a comprehensive position paper, shedding light on the instrumental role of reserved contracts in public procurement in fostering social and professional integration across Europe. Eurodiaconia’s member organizations provide social services and equally focus on promoting and creating opportunities for those facing barriers to employment.
Public procurement, constituting a significant part of the EU’s GDP, involves the purchase of goods and services by national authorities, spanning various sectors like health, social protection, education, and more. Eurodiaconia’s report highlights the transformative potential of socially responsible public procurement in promoting social goals, aligning with EU directives mandating non-discrimination and transparency in these processes.
We delve into the concept of reserved contracts, whereby public authorities designate specific parts of contracts to suppliers meeting predetermined criteria, particularly aimed at integrating disadvantaged groups into the workforce. These contracts operate within the framework of EU directives but allow flexibility in interpretation by Member States. For instance, one of best practices in Germany is the preference of inclusion enterprises in public procurement in Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL). One of the priorities of this practice is to maintain or improve the social context, employment and labor conditions in which social services are performed. Equally, the motive of this practice is to offer better employment chances for handicapped people, while creating a socially and economically sustainable environment.
Further, some European countries have witnessed significant legal debates and practical implementations surrounding reserved contracts in public procurement. Eurodiaconia’s paper presents valuable insights from examples in Norway and Spain, two court cases that exemplify the implementation and challenges of reserved contracts. These two examples of contested reserved contracts from Norway and Spain have brought to light the potential role of reserving contracts for service provision by civil society welfare providers and non-profit actors. By studying these cases, stakeholders and policymakers can gain valuable insights, paving the way for informed decision-making and fostering more inclusive, effective, and socially responsible public procurement practices across Europe.
The report concludes with recommendations for promoting the use of reserved contracts, urging action both at the national and EU levels. Eurodiaconia stresses the need for robust implementation mechanisms and the responsibility of Member States in adopting these socially responsible practices. Finally, we call policymakers, national authorities, and stakeholders to action, urging them to leverage the potential of reserved contracts in public procurement.