There currently appears to be considerable confusion amongst regulators and stakeholders over the purpose of the EU’s directives on public procurement and lack of a clear vision of what the directives seek to achieve. Against this background this article has two objectives. First, it seeks to provide a framework for understanding the directives’ functions and their relationship with national policy. In this respect it identifies the ends and means that the directives do, or could, adopt and/or which have been ascribed to them, and considers the implications of each for national regulatory space. Secondly, for each of the ends and means it suggests a specific legal interpretation of its actual and potential role in the EU’s legal framework.
It is argued that the directives seek to promote the internal market and that they seek to do so solely by three means—prohibiting discrimination, implementing transparency, and removing barriers to access. It rejects, on the other hand, certain broader conceptions of the directives, including that they promote a single market by standardising procedures; that they replicate in the public market the competitive process of the private market; and that they seek value for taxpayers’ money. It is argued that rejection of these broader functions has important implications for the scope of national regulatory space, both as regards the ‘commercial’ aspects of public procurement—notably ensuring value for money and an efficient procurement process—and as regards ‘horizontal’ policies in the sense of policies that promote social and environmental objectives through public procurement.