08 December 2006 | Paul Snell
The European Commission has released guidelines to tackle confusion over defence procurement rules.
Defence purchasing, which is worth around ?80 billion (£54.2 billion) a year in the EU, is regulated by standard EU procurement rules. Yet there has been confusion over how exemptions to the rules, aimed at protecting purchases involving national security, should be interpreted.
Charlie McCreevy, internal market and services commissioner, said: "These guidelines should improve the way current EU law on defence procurement is applied."
The guidelines state that it is up to member states to define what they believe are "essential security interests", but that they have a "special responsibility not to abuse this flexibility". Countries should assess which security interest is affected, how it relates to procurement and why it is important not to follow public procurement law in that case.
The commission also said it was considering the introduction of a new directive concentrating specifically on defence. It believes such legislation would make it easier for states to achieve the EU's aim of open and fair competition.
McCreevy said that the legislation would increase competition and deliver better value for money for taxpayers.
A voluntary code, aimed at improving fair and equal competition in defence procurement, was signed by 22 member states earlier this year (Web news, 30 June). The states belonging to the European Defence Agency (EDA) signed up to the code, which allows foreign competitors to bid for national military procurement deals worth more than ?1 million (around £690,000).