The provisional text of the new public procurement Directives has been made available by the European Parliament. In the final version of 15 of January, the principle of competition is finally consolidated in article 18 of the new general Directive in the following terms:
Article 18 - Principles of procurement
1. Contracting authorities shall treat economic operators equally and without discrimination and shall act in a transparent and proportionate manner. The design of the procurement shall not be made with the intention of excluding it from the scope of this Directive or of artificially narrowing competition. Competition shall be considered to be artificially narrowed where the design of the procurement is made with the intention of unduly favouring or disadvantaging certain economic operators.
The explicit inclusion of the principle must be welcome, even if its drafting creates some interpretative uncertainties--particularly in regards to the intentional element ("with the intention of [...] artificially narrowing competition") or the way in which the presumption linking (intended) discrimination with an actual distortion of competition.
In my view, these interpretative uncertainties deserve some clarification and there are sufficient interpretative criteria in the "pre-consolidated" case law concerned with competition in public procurement as to drive the clarification process [Sanchez Graells (2009) 'The Principle of Competition Embedded in EC Public Procurement Directives'). The teleological and functional interpretation of the principle still has to go in the direction of acknowledging that it requires that: public procurement rules have to be interpreted and applied in a pro-competitive way, so that they do not hinder, limit, or distort competition. Contracting entities must refrain from implementing any procurement practices that prevent, restrict or distort competition.
At any rate, the explicit consolidation of the principle seems likely to strengthen the use of pro-competitive arguments in public procurement litigation and, hopefully, will drive legal changes. It will be an interesting process to follow closely.