In response to a freedom of information request by Exit.al, the European External Action Service (EEAS) has refused to disclose the offers received by the EU Delegation in Tirana for the purchase of it’s ambassador’s residence.
As Exit has reported, the pre-selection procedure for the acquisition of the residence, eventually costing nearly €2 million, produced five “possible” properties, two of which turned out not to be for sale, one not yet finished, while a fourth was inexplicably very expensive. Even without any expert evaluation, the EU’s preferred choice in the Rolling Hills luxury compound turned out by default to be the “best option.”
In other words, the pre-selection procedure hardly produced a level playing field in which the EU could acquire the best option for the best price. This situation resembles the common “straw man” public procurement strategy often witnessed in Albania, in which the winner is pre-selected by making sure that other competitors clearly violate the eligibility criteria.
The EEAS refused to disclose the documents because this would “undermine the protection of commercial interests.”
I hereby confirm that releasing the list of offered properties (part of the market survey) would indeed undermine the protection of commercial interests of a natural or legal person, as per Article 4(2)1st indent of the abovementioned Regulation [(EC) No 1049/2001]. Therefore, I cannot grant you access to such list.
So while in Albania all offers in a public procurement procedure need to be public and are published on a weekly basis, the EU can withhold such order citing “protection of commercial interests.”
European Parliament Budget Control Committee Chair Ingeborg Gräßle previously stated that the affair “heavily damaged the image of the EU.” Without full openness from the EEAS about the procurement procedure, such damage cannot be undone.