Last checked: 13/11/2018

Tendering rules and procedures

UK decision to invoke Article 50 of the TEU: More information

As of 30 March 2019, all EU law will cease to apply to the UK, unless a ratified withdrawal agreement establishes another date, or the European Council and the UK decide unanimously to extend the two-year negotiation period. For more information about the legal repercussions for businesses:

As a business registered in the EU, you have the right to compete for public contracts in other EU countries. EU law sets minimum harmonised rules that apply to tenders above a certain value (see thresholds below).

For lower value tenders, national rules apply. These have to respect the general principles of EU law. ‘Below threshold' procedures may be simplified compared to EU-wide tenders.

For all tenders, public authorities:

A public authority can exclude your business from a call for tenders if it:

  • is bankrupt or being wound up
  • has suspended its activities or its activities are administered by a court
  • has been found guilty of grave misconduct
  • has not paid taxes or social security contributions
  • has made false declarations to a public authority

There are specific cases when public authorities may award contracts without publishing a call for tenders:

  • emergencies due to unforeseeable events
  • contracts that - for technical reasons or because of exclusive rights - can only be carried out by one particular company
  • contracts that by law are excluded from public procurement (acquisition/rental of existing buildings, employment contracts, programme material for broadcasting, etc.)

Thresholds triggering EU‑wide rules

 The amounts below do not include VAT

Central government authorities

≥ EUR 144 000

supplies contracts for defence only those listed in Annex III of Directive 2014/24

≥ EUR 221 000

supplies contracts for defence products not listed in Annex III of Directive 2014/24

≥ EUR 443 000 supplies and services contracts for water, energy, transport and postal services

≥ EUR 5 548 000

all works contracts

Other public authorities

≥ EUR 221 000

all supplies and services contracts

≥ EUR 443 000 supplies and services contracts for water, energy, transport and postal services

≥ EUR 5 548 000

all works contracts

For EU countries that do not use the euro, the following thresholds apply, in local currencies.

Public procurement rules

Award criteria

Public authorities may use different criteria when evaluating tenders, such as the lowest price offered. In this case, each applicant should be informed of the different weighting given to the different criteria (i.e. price, technical characteristics and environmental aspects).


Certain notices must be published for any public tender exceeding the thresholds  that trigger the EU-wide rules:

Public authorities may choose to publish other information notices, such as the prior information notice for a possible upcoming tender. When a tender is published following a prior information notice, the time limit to submit and receive tenders can be reduced. Another way of reducing the time limit is to publish the tender electronically.

A list of notices can be found in the buyers' corner on the European portal for public procurement (SIMAP).


Public authorities may only begin evaluating tenders after the deadline for submission has expired. If you have submitted a tender, you have the right to be informed as soon as possible whether or not you have won the contract. If you have not been selected, you are entitled to a detailed explanation of why your tender was rejected. The public authority must observe strict confidentiality regarding the exchange and storage of your data.

Technical specifications

Technical specifications define the characteristics of the service, supply or works that the public authority intends to buy. They may include aspects of environmental performance, design, safety, quality assurance or conformity assessment. For public works contracts they may also include tests, inspection and construction techniques.

Types of public procurement procedure

Open procedure

In an open procedure any business may submit a tender. The minimum time limit for submission of tenders is 35 days from the publication date of the contract notice. If a prior information notice was published, this time limit can be reduced to 15 days.

Restricted procedure

Any business may ask to participate in a restricted procedure, but only those who are pre-selected will be invited to submit a tender. The time limit to request participation is 37 days from the publication of the contract notice. The public authority then selects at least 5 candidates with the required capabilities, who then have 40 days to submit a tender from the date when the invitation was sent. This time limit can be reduced to 36 days, if a prior information notice has been published.

In urgent cases the public authority may set a time limit of 15 days to receive participation requests  (if the notice is sent electronically, this can be reduced to 10 days) and 10 days for the submission of the tenders.

Negotiated procedure

In a negotiated procedure the public authority invites at least 3 businesses with whom it will negotiate the terms of the contract.

Most contracting authorities can use this procedure only in a limited number of cases, for example for supplies intended exclusively for research or testing purposes. The contracting authorities in sectors such as water, energy, transport or postal services may use it as a standard procedure.

The time limit to receive requests to participate is 37 days from the publication of the contract notice. This can be reduced to 15 days in extremely urgent cases, or 10 days if the notice is sent electronically.

Under certain conditions this procedure can be chosen even without publication of a contract notice, for example:

  • where no tenders were submitted in an open or restricted procedure
  • in extremely urgent cases
  • in cases where, for technical reasons, the contract can be carried out only by a single business

Competitive dialogue

This procedure is often used for complex contracts such as large infrastructure projects where the public authority cannot define the technical specifications at the start. After the publication of the contract notice, interested businesses have 37 days to request participation. The public authority must invite at least 3 candidates to a dialogue in which the final technical, legal and economic aspects are defined. After this dialogue candidates submit their final tenders.

Competitive dialogue cannot be used by public services providers in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors.

Related topics

EU legislation

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