Public procurement contracts cover supplies, services and works purchased by the public sector.
Those over a certain value are subject to Community rules and procedures.
This legislation ensures fair treatment for businesses and openness in the handling of invitations to tender. It is to be seen in the context of greater competition and the freedom to provide services within the European common market.
Certain contracts remain a matter purely for the Member States, irrespective of their value, when they affect specific state interests. This particularly applies to defence contracts.
In 2004, the Council and the European Parliament enacted a new package of legislation which simplifies and modernises the procedures for awarding public-sector contracts. This package consists of two directives, one covering public works, supply and services contracts and the other public contracts in the water, energy, transport and postal sectors.
Two more directives govern the appeals procedures concerning the award of public works and supply contracts and the procedures for award of contracts by operators in the water, energy, transport and telecommunications sectors.
The Community legislation requires contracts over certain thresholds to be advertised in the Official Journal. The public procurement information system (SIMAP) provides the public procurement industry with information on European and international business opportunities.