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International Partnerships

We launch call for tenders to award procurement contracts when we need to purchase services, supplies or works, in the context of our external action. The activities covered by our procurement contracts contribute to specific development objectives. Tendering is a fair, regulated, and competitive bidding process that allows us to stay impartial in our spending and award our contracts to the business proposing the best quality-price ratio.


A tender is the official proposal that a company submits to us as a response to one of our calls for tenders, which we use to award specific procurement contracts.

We use procurement contracts when we need to purchase:

  • services (technical assistance, studies etc.)
  • supplies (equipment, materials etc.)
  • works (infrastructure, engineering works etc.)

Procurement contracts are commercial and legally binding agreements, funded by the EU general budget or the European Development Fund (EDF).

Standard rules for tenders and procurement contracts

A procurement contract is awarded based on a tender submitted by a candidate to the contracting authority (usually in the frame of a call for tenders). The contracting authority draws up the terms of reference for the services, supplies or works covered by the contract. It bears all the costs of the contract and owns its results. The activities foreseen under the procurement contract may generate profit for the contractor.

Procurement contracts and the tendering process are governed by the following principles:

  • Transparency and equal treatment The tendering process is a public and fully transparent procedure and it guarantees the non-discrimination of tenderers.
  • Competition and proportionality – The conditions we set for procurement contracts need to be appropriate, measured, and limited to what is necessary to reach the objectives of the contract. This proportionality ensures a regulated but competitive bidding process.
  • Sound financial managementand impartiality – When awarding procurement contracts, we systematically follow the principles of economy and effectiveness (we look for the best price-quality ratio), apply our anti-fraud strategy and action plan, and avoid conflicts of interest or other misconducts that could affect our impartiality.
  • Nationality rule – Tenderers must be established in an EU country, an EEA country or any other eligible country, as defined in the terms of the call for tenders or the related funding instrument.
  • Origin of goods – All goods purchased via a procurement contract must originate from an EU country or any other eligible country, as defined in the terms of the call for tenders or the related funding instrument.
  • Non-retroactivity – Procurement contracts normally start when all parties have signed them.

Procurement management modes

Direct management

When we directly manage procurement contracts, we fill the role of the contracting authority, which means that we are responsible for the entire award procedure, from the publishing of calls for tenders to the award decisions, signing of the procurement contracts, and follow-up of their execution.

Indirect management

Under indirect management, we entrust the implementation of the contract to a third party, which can be a partner country, an international organisation, a development agency etc.

In most cases, this designated contracting authority will need to check for our approval at key steps leading to the awarding of the contract. However, if we assess that we can trust their rules and procedures, we will limit our supervision to subsequent checks.

Shared management

In rare cases, we share the management of external action procurement contracts with EU countries.

We are always responsible for publishing contract guidelines and award notices.

Procurement procedures

Tendering is a competitive process. We may however apply different degrees of competition to our calls for tenders, depending both on the type (services, supplies or works) and the value of the contracts. Here are the different procurement procedures that we may apply:

  • Open calls for tendersAll economic actors may submit a tender.
  • Restricted calls for tendersOnly shortlisted candidates (meeting the selection criteria) will be invited to submit a tender.
  • Simplified procedure – The contracting authority invites at least 3 candidates of its choice to submit a tender.
  • Framework contracts – These are pre-agreements between the contracting authority and one or more economic actors on the terms that will govern the specific procurement contracts that will be concluded under this framework.
  • Dynamic purchasing system – Under this purely electronic process, the contracting authority publishes contract notices and invites all registered contractors to bid.
  • Competitive dialogue – This procedure is used for complex contracts, where neither an open nor a restricted procedure is the most appropriate.
  • Negotiated procedure – In specific cases, a contract may be awarded directly using the negotiated procedure.
  • Single tender procedure – A contract may be awarded directly if its value is of less than €20,000.

How to apply for a procurement contract?

All procurement procedures involve some or all of the following steps:

  1. Search for a tendering opportunity on our Calls for proposals and tenders publication website and read the general information contained in the prior information notice of the call you want to take part in.
  2. Read the contract notice carefully. The contract notice is published at the earliest 30 days after the prior information notice. It defines the scope, type, and budget of the contract, as well as the procurement procedure applied.
  3. In case of a restricted procedure, check if you have been shortlisted. If you are, you will then receive the tender dossier, which contains the terms of reference and instructions for tenderers. Please note that for open procedures, the tender dossier is made available at the same time as the contract notice.
  4. Submit your tender within set deadline and under the call’s terms.

These are the main steps to follow. For more information on how to take part in a call for tenders, please visit the Looking for funding section of this website.