This post was also written by Katherine Holmes and Angela Gregson.


The current European public procurement rules, intended to ensure open EU-wide competition for public contracts are contained in two directives:

  • The Public Sector Directive (Directive 2004/18) sets out the rules that apply to contracts awarded by public sector bodies (e.g. government, schools, and health authorities).
  • The Utilities Directive (Directive 2004/17) sets out a parallel set of rules that apply to contracts awarded by public utilities (or private utilities that have the benefit of special or exclusive rights) operating in the water, energy, transport and postal sectors.

The current rules have been criticised for their lack of clarity and efficiency and case law has substantially developed our understanding of the rules as set out in the directives. These factors, in combination with the developing public policy objectives of the European Commission (the “Commission”) relating to the promotion of electronic communication, the development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and social, environmental and employment considerations, have prompted the Commission to embark on simplifying, codifying and modernising procurement regulation. As a result, the Commission launched a review of the procurement rules in April 2010 and a consultation followed.

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