When school years are… unpredictable

BRUSSELS – Perhaps it can only happen in Greece: The start of the school year each September, an immutable ritual, constitutes something of an unforeseen crisis for the Education Ministry, creating requirements for student books that are «extremely urgent» and, therefore, not able to be met in line with the standards of transparent management of public money. The European Commission said yesterday it has sent the ministry a warning that it may refer Greece to the European Court for not complying with EU legislation on public contracts concerning the printing of schoolbooks. Every year, the ministry assigns the job directly and without tender to about 90 printing houses, all in Athens. However, the size of the job is such that it should be allocated on the basis of tender procedures and open to participants from any EU member state. Greece has not heeded the requirement, citing very tight deadlines before the start of the school year. In its letter, the Commission was forced to point out the obvious: «The school year begins every year, at a date set by the Greek authorities themselves,» which, it is hoped, «know in advance the approximate number of books to be printed and the expected date of delivery.»

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