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Public Procurement

Public Procurement

Public procurement refers to the process by which public authorities, such as government departments or local authorities, purchase work, goods or services from companies.

To create a level playing field for businesses across Europe, EU law sets out minimum harmonised public procurement rules. These rules govern the way public authorities and certain public utility operators purchase goods, works and services. They are transposed into national legislation and apply to tenders whose monetary value exceeds a certain amount. For tenders of lower value, national rules apply. Nevertheless, these national rules also have to respect the general principles of EU law.

This website provides information on European public procurement policies drawn-up by the European Commission. A general introduction to public procurement can also be found on Your Europe. For practical information, for instance on current business opportunities (Tenders Electronic Daily) or on how to upload calls for tenders, please visit the Publication Office’s SIMAP website. For information on EU grants and tenders, please visit the Funding and Tenders Portal.

Why public procurement is important

  • Every year, over 250 000 public authorities in the EU spend around 14% of GDP (around €2 trillion per year) on the purchase of services, works and supplies.
  • In many sectors such as energy, transport, waste management, social protection and the provision of health or education services, public authorities are the principal buyers. 
  • The public sector can use procurement to boost jobs, growth and investment, and to create an economy that is more innovative, resource and energy efficient, and socially-inclusive.
  • High quality public services depend on modern, well-managed and efficient procurement. 
  • Improving public procurement can yield big savings: even a 1% efficiency gain could save €20 billion per year.

What the European Commission does

Legal rules, implementation and enforcement

EU directives on public procurement cover tenders that are expected to be worth more than a given amount.  The core principles of these directives are transparency, equal treatment, open competition, and sound procedural management. They are designed to achieve a procurement market that is competitive, open, and well-regulated. This is essential for putting public funds to good use.

The section on legal rules, implementation and enforcement covers current public procurement rules and the monitoring and enforcement of rules including the possibility to file a complaint.

Public procurement strategy

The European Commission’s public procurement strategy focuses on six strategic policy priorities that were set out  in the 2017 communication 'Making public procurement work in and for Europe' . It aims to improve EU public procurement practices in a collaborative manner by working with public authorities and other stakeholders.

Press release

Ensuring wider uptake of innovative, green and social procurement

Under EU public procurement rules, contracting authorities may take multiple aspects into account when purchasing works, goods or services. Examples include protecting the environment, supporting social considerations and fostering innovation. However, 55% of procurement procedures use lowest price as the only award criterion for public contracts. This indicates that public buyers are probably not paying enough attention to quality, sustainability and innovation.

To support the further uptake of strategic procurement, the European Commission will update and issue new guidance documents on the use of innovative, green and social criteria. The Commission will also promote the exchange of good practice, including in strategic sectors, such as healthcare, IT and construction.

Brochure on strategic public procurement (2017)

Profesionalising public buyers

Professionalisation policies at national level are essential to ensure buyers have the necessary skills, knowledge and integrity. They need to address training and career management of public procurement practitioners, and to provide tools to make the procurement process more efficient (e.g. e-procurement tools, guidelines, templates).

In October 2017, the European Commission adopted a 'recommendation on the professionalisation of public procurement' to encourage EU countries to take steps to increase the professionalism of contracting authorities. 

The recommendation is accompanied by a library of 90 examples of good practices and tools

In the future, it will be complemented with a European competence framework for public procurement.

Increasing access to procurement markets

The EU advocates open international public procurement markets and has committed itself to granting market access to its own public procurement markets. The section on international public procurement provides information on the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) and free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with various countries, the International Procurement Instrument, and cooperation with enlargement and neighbourhood countries.

The Remedies Directives set minimum national review standards to ensure that rapid and effective means of redress are available in all EU countries when an economic operator with an interest in a public procurement procedure believes that it has been run without proper application of the EU Public Procurement Directives. In 2017 the Network of First Instance Review Bodies on Public Procurement was created to strengthen the remedies system and cooperation between national review bodies in the EU,

Improving transparency, integrity and data

Reliable data is essential in the creation of better analytics for needs-driven policy-making.

Improved and more accessible data on public procurement will make it possible to better assess the performance of procurement policies, optimise the interaction between public procurement systems, and shape future strategic decisions. The European Commission advocates for the set-up of publically accessible contract registers, which publish awarded contracts and their amendments. Enabling the reporting of corruption by setting up effective reporting mechanisms and protecting whistleblowers against retaliation can also contribute to improving transparency and saving public money.

Public procurement notice data from Tenders Electronic Daily is available on the EU Open Data Portal. The Publications Office provides all notices in extensible mark-up language (XML) format, while the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs provides a smaller subset of this data (covering just some years, countries, and types of notices) as comma-separated values (CSV).

Boosting the digital transformation of procurement

eProcurement refers to the use of electronic communications by public sector organisations when buying supplies and services or tendering public works. Increasing the use of eProcurement in Europe can generate significant savings for taxpayers. These savings would maximise the efficiency of public spending in the current context of fiscal constraints. eProcurement can also provide a new source of economic growth and jobs, including through the facilitation of access to public procurement contracts by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The section on digital public procurement contains information about the EU’s eProcurement strategy and links to various electronic tools.

Cooperating to procure together

Contracting authorities are rarely buying together with only 11% of procedures in the EU carried out through cooperative procurement. This is a missed opportunity as buying in bulk can result in better prices and higher quality goods and services. It can also help contracting authorities exchange public procurement know-how.

The European Commission aims to promote joint cross-border public procurement and support training on SME friendly policies. This will help buyers work together, learn from each other, and ensure better value for money. 

The Big Buyers Initiative is a European Commission platform for promoting collaboration between big public buyers in implementing strategic public procurement. Public procurement can be a key tool in driving the development of innovative goods and services on the European market. By working together, and pooling their resources, cities, central purchasing bodies, and other major public procurers can maximise their market power and impact. 

Support for large infrastructure projects

National authorities and contracting authorities/entities can use the ex-ante mechanism to pose questions to the European Commission and receive an assessment of a project’s compatibility with the EU's regulatory framework before taking important steps such as launching a call for tender for the main project works, signing an international agreement, or deciding to use a negotiated procedure without prior publication.

More information is available in the communication ‘Helping investment through a voluntary ex-ante assessment of the procurement aspects for large infrastructure projects’.

Defence and security procurement

Opening up the internal market for defence products will improve the competitiveness of the sector’s technological and industrial base. The persisting fragmentation of European defence markets leads to the unnecessary duplication of capabilities, organisations and expenditure. As a result, the industry is lacking the necessary economies of scale and risks losing critical expertise and autonomy in key capability areas. 

The section on defence and security procurement contains information about the EU Directive on defence and sensitive security procurement, cross-border access for SMEs in defence contracts and links to various guidance documents.

Guidance

The e-Competence Centre provides tools and information to help public buyers get value for money and better policy outcomes for citizens.

Studies and expert groups

This section has studies and expert groups related to public procurement that have been commissioned or organised by the European Comission.

Information on European countries

The section on information on EU countries includes Single Market Scoreboard monitoring and the implementation of EU public procurement rules in EU countries, as well as links to national public procurement websites and national public procurement strategies.

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