A network of papers on competition in public procurement: What a summer

If anyone has followed my SSRN account over the summer, they could not be blamed for thinking that I have been uploading quite a number of relatively similar papers on the interaction of competition and public procurement rules, and particularly the interpretation of Article 18(1) of Directive 2014/24. Given that this is something I explore in detail in Public Procurement and the EU Competition Rules, 2nd end (Oxford, Hart, 2015) 195-237 (generously made freely available by Hart Publishing here), the reader may wonder what else was there to say about this.

It is true that some of these papers touch upon connected issues and even have some overlapping sections. This could indeed lead readers to think that the papers are a simple iteration of the same ideas and, consequently, there is no point in reading them. This post explains how these papers interact and relate to each other--and it will hopefully clarify that I have not simply engaged in a massive exercise of self-plagiarism (or at least not willingly!). The papers address different specific issues or have different overall aims, which I hope makes them interesting to different scholars and practitioners for different reasons.

(1) The paper with a more general view is 'Competition Law and Public Procurement', which explores two of the areas in which antitrust prohibitions and public procurement law interact. This forms part of a larger project led by Dr Jonathan Galloway of the Newcastle Law School, which researches the way in which antitrust law (ie arts 101 and 102 TFEU) has developed through its interaction with other sets of economic law rules, both in the public and private law sphere. Thus, the paper provides an overview of the areas where the antitrust rules and EU public procurement law overlap, and zooms in to propose that the principle of competition in Art 18(1) of Dir 2014/24 may serve as a transmission belt to bring competition considerations and analysis to the public procurement sphere.

(2) With a similar general approach, I have updated 'Public Procurement and Competition: Some Challenges Arising from Recent Developments in EU Public Procurement Law' (originally drafted in 2013), to be included in Professor Chris Bovis' Research Handbook on European Public Procurement (Edward Elgar, forthcoming). This paper aims to map some of the challenges for a better integration of competition and public procurement rules that remain after the adoption of Dir 2014/24, and pays attention to issues related to eProcurement and the need of further professionalization of procurement. The paper points at research questions that may lead to further research, so it will hopefully be relevant to academics and postgraduate students looking for not so trodden paths to further our knowledge in this area of EU economic law.

(3) The most recent paper 'A Deformed Principle of Competition? – The Subjective Drafting of Article 18(1) of Directive 2014/24' provides a contextual analysis of the legislative process that led to the adoption of Dir 2014/24. Again, this paper forms part of a larger project led by Dr Grith Skovgaard Ølykke and myself that explores broader issues of the EU legislative process and the interaction of the EU Institutions involved, using the 2011-2014 EU public procurement reform as a case study. From this perspective, the paper focuses on the EU legislative process that led to the consolidation of the principle of competition in Art 18(1) of Dir 2014/24, as well as the modifications that its drafting suffered as a consequence of the negotiations between the Member States at the Council and the further amendment proposals by the European Parliament in preparation of the trialogue with the European Commission. This is, on its whole, a 'law and political science' paper--which is a methodological approach that we are trying to embrace as part of the project.

(4) Following this approach of assessing the interaction between law and policy, 'Truly Competitive Public Procurement as a Europe 2020 Lever: What Role for the Principle of Competition in Moderating Horizontal Policies?' tackles the implications of the principle of competition for the pursuit of horizontal policies as part of the broader Europe 2020 strategy. The paper takes the view that the principle of competition in Art 18(1) of Dir 2014/24 is the main tool in the post-2014 procurement toolkit and the moderating factor in the implementation of any horizontal (green, social, innovation) policies under the new rules — that is, that competition remains the main consideration in public procurement and that the pursuit any horizontal policies, including those aimed at delivering the Europe 2020 strategy, need to respect the requirements of undistorted competitive tendering. This is part of a broader discussion on the position and role of public procurement in the Europe 2020 strategy with Dr Richard Craven, Dr Sylvia de Mars and Dr Rike Kraemer at the forthcoming UACES conference.

(5) Finally, adopting a different perspective, 'Assessing Public Administration’s Intention in EU Economic Law: Chasing Ghosts or Dressing Windows?' looks at public procurement and State aid rules as two examples of areas of EU economic law subjected to interpretative and enforcement difficulties due to the introduction, sometimes veiled, of subjective elements in their main prohibitions. The paper explores the main thesis that such intentional elements need to be ‘objectified’, so that EU economic law can be enforced against the public administration to an adequate standard of legal certainty. Thus, the paper does not delve into the substantive implications of the principle of competition in Art 18(1) of Dir 2014/24, but on the technical aspects implied in its apparent requirement of assessing the intention of contracting authorities whose procurement activities are covered by the EU rules.

Overall, in my view, the papers offer quite a complementary set of perspectives on the general issue of the interaction between competition law and public procurement (1, 2), the way in which this interaction is fleshed out in the EU legislative process (3), the way in which diverging and conflicting policy goals can be balanced-out in a pro-competitive way (4) and the broader implications of the development of EU administrative law issues within these fields of EU economic law (5). Their common theme or common denominator is the permanent main focus on the principle of competition consolidated in Art 18(1) of Dir 2014/24. However, when taken as a whole, that is solely the conduit for the exploration of broader issues. Thus, I hope they will still be relevant for interested readers. From now on, I will focus on different issues. Enough of this topic, at least for the summer!