Thoughts on the European Commission's Strategy to deepen the internal market

The Commission put out last week its strategy for a Deeper and Fairer Internal Market. Part of it is dedicated to public procurement and Albert commented on it here, pointing out the collusion risks of contract registers (which I do not subscribe entirely) and the perennial language problems in cross-border procurement (which I do agree with).

But there is more to drill out of the Commission's strategy. In my view, the focus on compliance is overstated. Most countries transpose the Directives on time and by and large compliance with EU requirements is ok, so that is not really the problem. The focus should have been instead on literally deepening the internal market for public procurement. It is time for the Commission to show some initiative in this area and solve the problem posed by the thresholds. I have a paper precisely about this coming out in the near future, explaining how they came about 40 years ago and how they are now effectively defined by the EU's external commitments with the GPA.

Today, due to the thresholds, only around 18% of public procurement spend is covered by the EU Directives, with the rest subject only to national rules. Well, not "only" national rules as if the contract has cross-border interest, then the Treaty principles of non-discrimination and transparency should be respected. As I wrote back in 2013, that is pretty much impossible to establish in advance and the Court has spent 15 years trying to solve the problem on a case-by-case approach.

There is another reason to deepen the internal market: digital services. By definition, digital services are cross-border (or at least they are not pry to the same transaction costs as other services) and tend to be cheaper than normal services. The vast, vast majority of digital services will come well below the current thresholds. This is for me a critical reason to review them in the near future, as if we do not do so, the digital services internal market will be as "complete" as the regular one.

As for the language issues, well Google translate is getting better and maybe Skype Translator will be the real deal.