21 November 2005 | Anusha Bradley
European defence ministers today agreed to adopt a code of conduct allowing foreign competitors to bid for national military procurement deals.
While European Union member states should already allow open competition, many use a clause in the Treaty of Rome to prevent other member states bidding for contracts.
The voluntary code of conduct was written by the European Defence Agency (EDA) and will cover deals worth more than 1 million (£679,600). It will take effect from July 2006.
Javier Solana, head of the EDA, said it was a "landmark" decision.
Member states choosing to adopt the code will commit to "maximising fair and equal opportunities" to all suppliers from other subscribing countries. Procurement opportunities will be published on an online portal, which will also provide transparent and objective criteria for selecting bidders and awarding contracts, the EDA said.
However, the body that represents UK defence equipment manufacturers remained sceptical.
Brinley Salzmann, exports director for the UK-based Defence Manufacturers' Association, said: "In theory it means more opportunities for us as some of the barriers should be broken down, but it's a voluntary code so it depends how many governments in the EU actually adopt it.
"The UK has one of the most open defence procurement markets in the world - it sources 16 to 20 per cent offshore. It will generate further business for us if other countries reciprocate."
Member states have until next spring to decide if they will sign up.Related articles:Europe set to liberate military contracts