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EU Public procurement

Before Community legislation was enacted, only 2% of public contracts in the Community were awarded to firms from a Member State other than that in which the invitation to tender was issued. This lack of open and effective competition was one of the most obvious and anachronistic obstacles to the completion of the single market. As well as pushing up costs for contracting authorities, the lack of intra-Community competition in certain key industries (e.g. telecommunications) inhibited the development of European firms which were competitive on world markets.

Opening up public procurement to competition is first and foremost a matter of creating incentives for public purchasers, as well as for entities with special or exclusive rights, to adopt competitive tendering procedures. To that end, the Community has decided to coordinate the procurement procedures followed in different countries and has endeavored to encourage more firms to bid for public contracts, inter alia by developing a number of tools for boosting supplier participation. A genuinely open single market will be achieved only when all firms can compete for contracts on an equal footing. The coordination effort has led to the adoption of four Directives on the subject, covering work contracts , supply contracts , service contracts and finally procurement by "utilities", that is to say enterprises operating in the water, energy, transport and telecommunications sectors .

The Directives on supplies and works were followed up in December 1989 by a Directive regulating review procedures in these areas; it was extended to cover services in 1992. The Review Procedures Directive ensures that there is a proper remedy for any infringement committed during contract-award procedures.

The Utilities Directive covers contracts for supplies, works or services concluded by undertakings operating in the water, energy, transport and telecommunications sectors. The Directive takes account of the specific nature of such enterprises and of the different ways the sectors are structured in the Community.

Here too there is a Directive regulating review procedures. It ensures that an aggrieved firm has proper access to review machinery if it feels that the Community rules have been infringed.

Taken together these Directives form a body of Community public procurement legislation which is based on:

  • rules ensuring transparency in order to open up public contracts to competition, with preference being given to open or restricted tendering procedures, and clear criteria for the selection of tenders;
  • effective and rapid review of decisions taken by contracting entities which infringe Community public procurement law.

Implementation of these measures requires contracting entities to use a standard format when publishing their tender notices.

As stated earlier, the Commission has not confined itself to preparing legislation on award and review procedures. It has taken other steps to improve transparency, in such areas as the training of responsible officers in public authorities or undertakings, the standardization of notices and the quality of information on public procurement.

To improve the quality of information on public procurement and make it easier to be translated, circulated, read and understood, the Commission is encouraging standardization at European and indeed international level in fields which are particularly important for the opening-up of public procurement, and has developed standardized forms to simplify the drafting and understanding of the notices which have to be published under the Directives.



EU Law

The whole EU law (directives, regulations, decisions, recommendations, etc.) regarding public procurement is available under CELEX or via SIMAP.