On 11th February 2014 the European Council adopted a package of measure which signal a major modernisation and reform of the existing public procurement rules in the EU. The current procurement rules date back to 2004.

The legislative package consists of the following:-

• New Public Sector Directive:- a directive on public procurement by the public sector (replacing Council Directive 2004/18/EC);

• New Utilities Directive:- a directive on procurement by entities operating in the utilities sectors: water, energy, transport and postal services (replacing Council Directive 2004/17/EC); and

• Directive on Concession Contracts:- a directive on the award of public concession contracts.

Originally proposed in 2011, these new Directives represent a major overhaul of public procurement rules across the EU which will improve a wide range of areas applying to the procurement of goods, works and services.

The major features of the reform package include:-

The simplification and greater flexibility of procurement procedures:-The package provides for a simplification and greater flexibility of procurement procedures. Measures will make procurement easier and administratively less burdensome and allow contracting authorities greater flexibility in the procurement procedures they can follow. There will be particular emphasis on the promotion of electronic procurement to deliver more efficient and faster outcomes.

Greater recognition of social and environmental considerations in the procurement process:- The new rules seek to ensure greater recognition of social and environmental concerns as a valid part of the procurement process. These concerns include environmental protection, social responsibility, innovation, combatting climate change, employment, public health and other social and environmental considerations.

Better access to the market for small companies:- Access for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to regulated procurements has always been a problem. However the new measures are focused at opening up opportunities for SMEs by simplifying the documentation and the requirements SMEs need to produce to participate in OJEU procurements, the creation of a standardised document for selection purposes and the encouragement of contracting authorities to consider the division of contracts into smaller lots to make contract opportunities more attractive and practical for SMEs.

Sound procedures:- The new regime will impose upon contracting authorities stricter rules to prevent, identify and remedy conflicts of interests in the procurement process to avoid distortions of competition and undue discrimination between economic operators.

Governance:- Member States will have obligations to monitor and report on public procurement activity in order to ensure the uniform application of EU law in the procurement field.