EU rules put stop to free distribution of school books in the Netherlands

25 January 2008

EU rules put stop to free distribution of school books in the Netherlands

As a result of the system for putting contracts out to tender imposed by the EU's internal market regulations, schools in the Netherlands will no longer be allowed to distribute free books to their students. SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer, questioning the European Commission on the issue, described the system as "bureaucratic, costly and restrictive of the freedom of choice of schools to buy such books as they deem necessary."

Erik MeijerIf a state or municipal body wants to spend more than € 206.000 ($303,582/£153,844), it is obliged to put the contract out to tender across the twenty-seven member states. Erik Meijer explains the problem that this causes in this instance: "For Dutch schools it means that they have to draw up an order for books which any company, including one in say the south of Italy, can compete for. This is of course absurd." Meijer says that this seriously hinders the freedom of choice which schools in the Netherlands have traditionally enjoyed. "They can't take their favoured educational methods as a basis for this choice, but have to describe their requirements in terms sufficiently vague to enable any publisher to compete for the order. This is senseless. The books will of course have to be in Dutch for a start, so what is the point in having to tender across twenty-seven countries?"

The rule is also expensive in its effects. "The cost per school can reach €30.000 per year, a great deal of money for a school on limited resources. Money is thus wasted on a tender procedure, money which was intended for education." Meijer expects to see the application of the tender rule meeting resistance from teachers and parents. He is asking the Commission to come up with proposals which will end the absurdity and restore schools' freedom of choice.

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