Magazine article European Social Policy

Public Procurement : Barnier Denies Plans to Privatise Social Security

Magazine article European Social Policy

Public Procurement : Barnier Denies Plans to Privatise Social Security

Article excerpt

Michel Barner has attempted to extinguish the flames of a fiery debate on the European Commission's suspected intention to introduce competition mechanisms within compulsory social security systems via public procurement contracts. Barnier, the commissioner for the internal market, denied the allegation, on 18 October.

The debate was initially sparked by the discovery of concessions in Annex XVI of the proposed directives on public procurement, which explicitly mention compulsory social security services in a list of services that would be subject to the directives. The new rules, proposed on 20 December 2011, are currently under discussion at Parliament and Council. Meanwhile, ten months after the publication of the proposals, the discovery has riled those who fear it is a surreptitious attempt to dismantle' mandatory social security systems.

The French online newspaper Mediapart echoed this fear, on 11 October, and criticism of the Commission followed. However, the Commission did not manage to squash the discussion - despite its right to reply - and the debate was particularly fierce among the French and Belgian left. In a statement, on 17 October, MEP Marc Tarabella (S&D, Belgium), rapporteur for the two texts on public procurement, strongly condemned an attempt, via public procurement, to "open up obligatory social services to the private market". He added: "This is totally unacceptable. Social security MUST remain the state's prerogative".

"We must be on guard," said Pierre Bauby, a specialist in European public services and professor at the University of Paris VIII and the Paris Institute of Political Studies. "Certainly the wording should be clarified, but there is no danger of liberalising obligatory social security," he told Europolitics social.

Commissioner Barnier has therefore come forward to set the record straight. "The Commission formally denies all allegations concerning such an intention," he said, deploring "this erroneous and regrettable interpretation, which is a result of careless reading of the legislative proposal". …

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