Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

New recommendation on supporting cross-border market access for defence and security SMEs

New recommendation on supporting cross-border market access for defence and security SMEs
Published on: 20/04/2018
The European Commission has issued a recommendation on cross-border market access for sub-suppliers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the defence sector. This document proposes measures to improve the position of SMEs in defence supply chains. By doing so, it furthers the push towards an open and competitive EU Single Defence Market.

The recommendation proposes measures for:

Public procurement by national authorities

  • providing early information about long-term plans and priorities in defence procurement
  • voluntary publication of contract opportunities and additional transparency measures, including targeted events
  • improving the quality of procurement information
  • possibly dividing procurement contracts into lots and/or tendering in separate lots
  • preparing and conducting procedures which reduce hurdles for bidders, especially SMEs
  • using qualitative selection with proportionate and non-discriminatory criteria
  • providing training and capacity building for procurement officers and contractors

Industrial policy at national and European level

  • using national and European funding for SMEs and intermediate companies in defence supply chains
  • establishing, reviewing or disseminating databases on defence-related companies
  • supporting the development of defence clusters at regional, national and European level
  • encouraging SMEs' involvement in innovation and R&T projects with defence applications
  • addressing skills needs and gaps in the European defence industry
  • helping improve SMEs and sub-suppliers' capacity for cross-border bidding


Despite being an important part of the defence supply chain, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face considerable challenges in cross-border access to defence contracts. These include legal, administrative, geographic, language and cultural obstacles, as well as classified information, security of supply requirements, standardisation and certification, and national export control regulations.

This situation contributes to the fragmentation of the European defence equipment market and hinders transparency and openness between EU countries. It also affects the efficiency and competitiveness of the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB), undermining the EU's strategic autonomy.

In response, the Commission set up an Advisory Group on cross-border access for SMEs to defence and security contracts. This group prepared a report, outlining recommendations on government procurement, prime contractors, EU-wide access to supply chains and contracts, SMEs and sub-suppliers’ capacity building, research and technology (R&T) and innovation, and intra-community transfer of defence-related products.

Today's recommendation was developed as a follow up to that report.

Next steps

The Commission will continue to encourage SMEs' participation in the European defence equipment market. In particular, the Commission is engaging in a structured dialogue with industry stakeholders to enhance SMEs' access to defence and security supply chains across Europe.


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