France - Country Commercial Guide
Selling to the Public Sector

Describes how major projects are secured and financed. Explains activities of the multilateral development banks in and other aid-funded projects.

Last published date: 2021-10-12

The French Government generally follows EU procurement regulations that are adopted into French regulations:  The French Government Portal for French Government tenders, “La PLACE” is the platform for the French public administrations’ procurement procedures. It enables companies to view and respond to consultations issued by French governmental agencies and sub-agencies in the central administration and decentralized services. This includes public institutions, as well as Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Union of public purchasing groups, “UGAP.”

French government uses Tenders Gazette and Boamp.fr to disseminate French public tenders launched by the government, the military, regions, departments, municipalities and institutions in France.  It enables tracking and access to business opportunities for companies. It offers practical tools to understand the rules of public orders in France:

Resources

Government procurement in Europe is governed by international obligations under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and EU-wide legislation under the EU Public Procurement Directives.  U.S.-based companies can bid on public tenders covered by the GPA, while European subsidiaries of United States companies may bid on all public procurement contracts covered by EU directives. 

All public procurement procedures in the European Union are carried out on the basis of national rules.  For higher value contracts, these rules are based on general EU public procurement rules.  The value limits, or thresholds, for EU rules are used depend on the subject of the purchase and who is making the purchase.  These thresholds are revised regularly, and the amounts adjusted slightly.  The limits are 139,000 euro for most types of services and supplies purchased by central government authorities, and 5,350,000 euro for construction contracts.  National rules should also be confirmed.  For lower value tenders, only national public procurement rules apply, but the general European Union principals of transparency and equal treatment should be respected. 

The four relevant EU directives on public procurement are:

  • Directive 2014/24/EU on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts, and public service contracts applies to the general sector.
  • Directive 2014/25/EU coordinates the procurement procedures of entities operating in the water, energy, transport, and postal services sectors.
  • Directive 2009/81/EC on defense and sensitive security procurement.  This directive sets European Union rules for the procurement of arms, munitions, and war material (plus related works and services) for defense purposes, but also for the procurement of sensitive supplies, works and services for nonmilitary security purposes.
  • Directive 2014/23/EU on the award of concession contracts.  A concession contract (either for the delivery of works or services) is conducted between a public authority and a private enterprise that gives the right to the company to build infrastructure and operate businesses that would normally fall within the jurisdiction of the public authority (e.g., highways).

In addition, the European Union has “remedies” directives imposing common standards for all Member States to abide by in case bidders identify discriminatory public procurement practices.

Electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) was introduced in 2018, based on the requirement set forth in Directive 2014/55/EU.  The Directive makes the receipt and processing of electronic invoices in public procurement obligatory.  Standards for e-invoicing are being developed by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

There are restrictions for United States suppliers in the utilities sector across the European Union, both in the EU Utilities Directive and in coverage of the GPA.  Article 85 of Directive 2014/25 allows European Union contracting authorities to either reject non-EU bids where the proportion of goods originating in non-European Union countries exceeds fifty percent or give preference to the EU bid if prices are equivalent (within a three percent margin).  Moreover, the Directive allows EU contracting authorities to retain the right to suspend or restrict the award of service contract to undertakings in third countries where no reciprocal access is granted.

There are also restrictions in the coverage of the GPA that apply specifically to U.S.-based companies.  United States companies are not allowed to bid on works and services contracts procured by sub-central public contracting authorities in the water, airport services, urban transport and railways, and dredging services and procurement related to shipbuilding sector and sub-sectors.

Financing of Projects

EU financial assistance programs provide a wide array of grants, loans, loan guarantees and co-financing for feasibility studies and projects in several key sectors (e.g., environmental, transportation, energy, telecommunications, tourism, public health).  Several centralized financing programs are also generating procurement and other opportunities directly with EU institutions.

The EU supports economic development projects within its Member States, as well as EU-wide “economic integration” projects that cross both internal and external EU borders.  In addition, the EU provides assistance to candidate and neighbor countries.

The EU provides project financing through grants from the EU budget and loans from the European Investment Bank. Grants from the EU Structural and Investment Funds program are distributed through the Member States’ national and regional authorities.  Projects in non-EU countries are managed through the Directorate-Generals Enlargement, Development and Cooperation (EuropeAid), Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

EU Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)

EU Structural Funds, including the European Regional Development and the European Social Fund, were created in 1975 with the aim to mitigate economic and social differences between the regions of the European Union.  New budgets are approved every seven years for all Member States. The budgets and the allocation of funding between the different priorities (social, economic, or environmental) are based on the conclusions of the “Partnership Agreements” (PAs) which are negotiated between the European Commission and the member state national authorities.  For the period of 2014 – 2020, the EU has earmarked 352 billion euros for regional development and cohesion policy projects. For information on approved programs (https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/index_en.cfm) that will result in future project proposals please consult this link.

For projects financed through ESIF, member state regional managing authorities are the key decision-makers. They assess the needs of their country, investigate projects, evaluate bids, and award contracts. To become familiar with available financial support programs in the Member States, contractors should develop a sound understanding of the country’s cohesion policy indicators.

Tenders issued by Member States’ public contracting authorities for projects supported by EU grants are subject to EU public procurement legislation. All ESIF projects are co-financed by national authorities and many may also qualify for a loan from the European Investment Bank and EU research funds under Horizon 2020, in addition to private sector contribution. For more information on these programs, please see the market research section on the website of the U.S. Mission to the EU:  Market Intelligence.

The Cohesion Fund

The Cohesion Fund is another instrument of the EU’s regional policy.  Its 63 billion-euro (2014-2020) budget is used to finance projects in two areas:

Trans-European transport projects including transport infrastructure, and the environment, including areas related to sustainable development and energy for projects with environmental benefits.

The fund supports projects in Member States whose Gross National Income (GNI) per inhabitant is less than 90 % of the EU average, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

These projects are, in principle, co-financed by national authorities, the European Investment Bank, and the private sector:

Key Link: The Cohesion Fund: https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/funding/cohesion-fund/

Other EU Grants for Member States

Other sets of sector-specific grants such as Horizon 2020 offer assistance to EU Member States in the fields of science, technology, communications, energy, security, environmental protection, education, training and research. Tenders related to these grants are posted on the websites of the European Commission and the relevant Member State authorities.  Participation is usually restricted to EU-based firms or tied to EU content. Information pertaining to each of these programs can be found at: EU Funding and Tenders.

External Assistance Grants

“Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid” is the Directorate–General (DG) responsible for implementing EU development policies through programs and projects across the world.  Its website offers extensive information on the range of grant programs, the type of eligible projects, as well as manuals to help interested parties understand the relevant contract law. However, participation in these calls for tender is reserved for enterprises located in the EU Member States or in the beneficiary countries and requires that the products used to respond to these projects are manufactured in the EU or in the aid recipient country.  Consultants of U.S. nationality employed by a European firm are allowed to participate.  European subsidiaries of U.S. firms are also eligible to participate in these calls for tender.

For more information: International Cooperation and Development: https://ec.europa.eu/international-partnerships/home_en.

The European Neighborhood Instrument (ENI) provides assistance to countries that are the Southern Mediterranean and Eastern neighbors of the EU. ENI is the follow-up to the European Neighborhood Policy program (ENPI) covering the countries of Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.  The ENI budget is 15.4 billion euros for 2014-2020.  Additional information can be found at: EU External Action.

Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance II (IPA II) is an EU program for pre-accession countries that provides support for political and economic reforms, preparing the beneficiaries for the rights and obligations that come with EU membership that are linked to the adoption of the acquis Communautaire (the body of European Union law that must be adopted by candidate countries as a precondition to accession).  These programs are intended to help build up the administrative and institutional capacities of these countries and to finance investments designed to aid them in complying with EU law. IPA II runs from 2014 to 2020 and finances projects in: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. The budget of IPA II for 2014-2020 is 11.7 billion euros.

For more information, see: https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/eu-enlargement_en

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is an EU financing mechanism that uses the EC budget as well as the Cohesion Funds to finance projects in three key areas: energy, transport and telecommunication. It was created by Regulation 1316/2013 on December 11, 2013.

Along with the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), CEF is expected to play a role in bridging the investment gap in Europe, which is one of the Commission’s top priorities. In all three main categories the focus is on creating better conditions for growth and jobs. Annual and multi-annual work programs specify the priorities and the total amount of financial support allocated for these priorities in a given year.

Only actions contributing to projects of common interest in accordance with Regulations 1315/2013, No 347/2013 and a regulation on guidelines for trans-European networks in the area of telecommunications infrastructure and program support actions are eligible for support.

Projects supported through the CEF mechanism focus on the following:

  • cleaner transport modes,
  • high speed broadband connections, and
  • the use of renewable energy (in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy), integration of the internal energy market, reduction of the EU’s energy dependency and ensuring security of supply. 

The total budget of the CEF for the period 2014 to 2020 is set at €30.44 billion. This amount is distributed between the main priority areas as follows:

  1. transport sector: €24.05 billion
  2. telecommunications sector: €1billion
  3. energy sector: €5.35 billion

Please see: Connecting European Facility.

Loans from the European Investment Bank

Headquartered in Luxembourg, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is the financing arm of the European Union.  Since its creation in 1958, the EIB has been a key player in building Europe.  As a non-profit banking institution, the EIB assesses reviews and monitors projects, and offers cost-competitive, long-term lending.  Best known for its project financial and economic analysis, the EIB makes loans to both private and public borrowers for projects supporting four key areas: innovation and skills, access to finance for smaller businesses, climate and environment, and infrastructure.

While the EIB mostly funds projects within the EU, it lends outside the EU as well (e.g., in Southeastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Pacific and Caribbean states). In 2016, the EIB loaned 76 billion euros for projects. The EIB also plays a key role in supporting EU enlargement with loans used to finance improvements in infrastructure, research, and industrial manufacturing to help those countries prepare for eventual EU membership.

The EIB presents attractive financing options for projects that contribute to the European objectives cited above, as EIB lending rates are lower than most other commercial rates.

Projects financed by the EIB must contribute to the socio-economic objectives set out by the EU, such as fostering the development of less favored regions, improving European transport and environment infrastructure, supporting the activities of SMEs, assisting urban renewal and the development of a low-carbon economy, and generally promoting growth and competitiveness in the EU. The European Investment Bank website displays lists of projects to be considered for approval.

Multilateral Development Banks

World Bank

With 189 member countries, the World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital programs.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was founded in 1991 to create a new post-Cold War era in central and eastern Europe, furthering progress towards ‘market-oriented economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative’.

U.S. Commercial Service Liaison Offices at the Multilateral Development Banks (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, World Bank)

The Commercial Service maintains Commercial Liaison Offices in each of the main Multilateral Development Banks, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank. These institutions lend billions of dollars in developing countries on projects aimed at accelerating economic growth and social development by reducing poverty and inequality, improving health and education, and advancing infrastructure development. The Commercial Liaison Offices help American businesses learn about getting involved in bank-funded projects, and advocate on behalf of American bidders. Learn more by contacting the Commercial Liaison Offices to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank.

Resources

EU Resources

  • The EU regional policies, the EU Structural and Cohesion Funds: https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/index_en.cfm
  • EU Funding and Tenders at https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders_en
  • EuropeAid Co-operation Office: https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/index_en.htm
  • EU Tenders Database: https://ted.europa.eu/TED/main/HomePage.do
  • The European Investment Bank: https://www.eib.org/en/projects/index.htm

EIB-financed projects:

https://www.eib.org/en/projects/index.htm

U.S. Resources

  • Market research section on the website of the U.S. Mission to the EU
  • Export-Import Bank of the United States https://www.exim.gov/
  • Country Limitation Schedule https://www.exim.gov/tools-for-exporters/country-limitation-schedule
  • DFC https://www.dfc.gov/
  • Trade and Development Agency https://ustda.gov/
  • SBA’s Office of International Trade https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba-locations/headquarters-offices/office-international-trade
  • U.S. Agency for International Development https://www.usaid.gov/.