The EU has detailed rules on how public procurement should be conducted. There are also various international, regional and bilateral rules and guidelines.
What are the rules in the EU market?
All public procurement procedures in the EU are carried out on the basis of national rules. For higher value contracts, these rules are based on general EU public procurement rules.
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.
Within competitive tendering there are different types of public procurement procedures.
The value limits – thresholds - that mark when EU rules are used depend on the subject of the purchase, and who is making the purchase. These thresholds are revised regularly.
You can check the detailed public procurement thresholds.
For lower value tenders, only national public procurement rules apply but the general EU principles of transparency and equal treatment should be respected.
Find the EU procurement legislation here.
How to bid for public tenders in the EU?
- tender opportunities are published on Tenders Electronic Daily (TED)
- procurement documents must be accessible electronically and a link must be included in the TED notices
- companies must submit tenders electronically
- procuring agencies must accept electronic invoices (with some exceptions for sub-central authorities)
Public procurement markets abroad
While the EU public procurement market is one of the most developed and open systems in the world, outside of the EU the situation is often very different.
EU businesses do not always have equal access to foreign public procurement markets as many countries are reluctant to open their public procurement markets to international competition.
In a number of its trade agreements, the EU has agreed to public procurement rules with other countries.
In these cases, the EU and its trading partners offer each other access to procurement by certain public authorities and bodies for certain goods and services to encourage more open and balanced international markets.
This means that companies from either side can compete for public contracts in the areas specified in the agreement.
The EU has trade agreements with public procurement chapters with:
Canada, Japan, Central America, Chile, Colombia, Iraq, Korea, Mexico, Peru, Mercosur, Ukraine, Singapore
These trade agreements cover the rules for contracting goods, works and services, and list the specific procurement opportunities that are open to businesses from either side.
Some of these agreements are based on the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).
You can find information about these agreements in the Markets section.