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Chambers of Commerce and European Public Procurement Policy – Resource Dependence and Organizational Competition

Detlef Sack
University of Bielefeld
Detlef Sack
University of Bielefeld
Open Panel

Abstract

Based on the resource dependence approach and concepts of policy processes the paper aims at identifying the factors explaining the influence of Chambers of Commerce (CoC) in the European multi-level polity on public procurement policy. Subject of the research is the lobby process of CoC-organizations against social and environmental standards in public procurement regulation. Three interwoven processes are being analysed. On the European level the consultation and establishment of such standards via European directives in 2004 (2004/17/EC; 2004/18/EC) will be discussed. The paper then turns to the German national regulation process and the amendments in public procurement in 2007-2009. This process was closely linked to a number of amendments of public procurement laws of the German federal states following a judgement of the European Court of Justice (C-346/06) which has been seen to pave way for a liberal approach to regulation. Instead, three reactions (expansion of social standards, their complete dismantling and formal adjustment) took place. In these processes, the CoC-organizations have been very active and argued with the primacy of European law. However, they succeeded only under certain conditions which are identified by a qualitative comparative analysis of the 16 German federal states. Notable influence of CoC-organizations derived mainly from both the participation of the Liberal Party (FDP) in government and the CoC’s monopoly of juridical and administrative expertise on European Procurement Law. In contrast, the liberal market position of the CoC-organization was weakened by the strength of small- and medium-sized business associations (eg Chambers of Craft) and their influence on the Christian Democratic Party. Interestingly, the European Chambers of Commerce (Eurochambres) opted for a rather SME oriented approach in this case. On the national level, the CoC-organization took the road to a very moderate lobbying. This is to be explained against the background of both an internal social movement within the CoC opposing obligatory membership within chambers and the CoC dependence on resource allocation by the government. In particular, the struggle to maintain the law for obligatory membership in CoC weakened their position on policy issues like public procurement. Moderate lobbying by the CoC was exchanged for the organizational support of CoC by political parties. The research on CoC lobbying against social and environmental standards is part of a broader comparative research agenda on the changing role of CoC in the Europeanized multi-level polity.