Commission takes Greece back to court for failure to accept CE marked medical devices in public procurement procedures

The European Commission has referred Greece back to the EU’s Court of Justice because of its failure to apply EU rules on public procurement as regards contracts for supplies of medical equipment to hospitals. In the Commission’s view, Greece continues to infringe EU law and has not complied with a Court judgment of 19th March 2009 (C-489/06). The Court ruled that Greece had failed to fulfil its obligations under EU rules on common safety standards for products as well as on public procurement by rejecting offers from suppliers of medical equipment bearing the CE marking. As Greece has still not complied with the Court judgment, the Commission has now decided to refer the case back to the Court again and will ask the Court to impose financial penalties on Greece of 7173,06 euro per day from the date of the original Court ruling until Greece finally complies with EU rules or until the second Court ruling whichever comes first, as well as 43724,8 euro per day from the date of the second Court ruling until Greece finally complies with EU rules.

What is the aim of the EU rules in question?

Public procurement is about how public authorities spend public money. It covers works, services and supplies. Total public procurement in the EU is estimated at about 17% of the Union’s GDP. The open and transparent tendering procedures required under EU public procurement rules mean more competition, stronger safeguards against corruption and better service and value for money for taxpayers.

How is Greece not respecting these rules and how are citizens and business suffering as a result?
The Commission was notified in 2003 by a complainant that in the context of public procurement, several public hospitals in Greece are rejecting offers from suppliers of medical equipment that bear the CE certification marking, such as medical gloves and threads used for operations. CE is a mandatory conformity mark on many products that are placed on the EU Single Market. It certifies that a product has met EU consumer safety, health or environmental requirements. The CE marking is particularly important for medical equipment, as the common standards ensure safety and health protection for patients and users and guarantee the free movement of such equipment across the EU.

Only under strict circumstances, such as suspected forgeries or concerns on public health, can Member States prevent CE-certified medical equipment to be put in service or placed on their market, following the precise procedure provided for by the relevant EU rules. Greek hospitals did not comply with the said procedures, when rejecting the medical products baring the CE marking.

However, the Commission found that the technical specifications in the tender notice used by the Greek hospitals were subjective and discriminatory, effectively blocking any supplier of CE-certified medical equipment to enter into a competitive bidding procedure for supply contracts. This means that Greek public hospitals do not acquire the devices they need at a competitive price. Furthermore, as the Greek health security fund reimburses the acquired medical equipment, these practices may lead to a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Source: European Commission

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