Brake on tender law

The government on Saturday started the legislative process to suspend implementation of its controversial new law on public tenders for over four months, pending negotiations with the European Commission, which has rejected the law as incompatible with EU regulations. An amendment – attached to a completely unrelated bill on the finances of prefectural administrative bodies – was tabled in Parliament by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who drafted the tender law. The matter is expected to be debated next week. The law, which was passed on January 20 and was the ruling conservatives’ proudest achievement during their first year in government, was due to come into effect on June 14. It bans owners of 1 percent or more in media firms – or their close relatives – from bidding for state deals worth over 1 million euros through their other business interests, and forces participants in tenders to identify their shareholders. Under the amendment, the ban will not be enforced until October 31, 2005, by which time the government hopes to have struck a deal with Brussels, as the Commission – following complaints from Greek and Italian firms – has called on Athens to alter the tender law or else face prosecution at the European Court of Justice. In a last warning sent to Greece on April 27, the EC said the law «breaches Community directives on public procurement and the principal of equal treatment of the participants, as well as the exercise of almost all the fundamental freedoms acknowledged by the EC Treaty.» It added that it might ask the European Court to order the law’s suspension until the case can be discussed. The amendment noted that the delay in implementing the law «will facilitate dialogue to find common ground with the European Commission.»