Public contracts, public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts are defined in Article 1(2) of the Procurement Directive 2004/18/EC.
Title I Definitions and general principles starts with Article 1 Definitions, and the definitions are set out in paragraphs 2 to 15.
First we present the definitions as given in the Procurement Directive. Then we refer to some materials aimed at business persons and public servants.
DEFINITIONS AND GENERAL PRINCIPLES
1. For the purposes of this Directive, the definitions set out in paragraphs 2 to 15 shall apply.
2. (a) ‘Public contracts’ are contracts for pecuniary interest concluded in writing between one or more economic operators and one or more contracting authorities and having as their object the execution of works, the supply of products or the provision of services within the meaning of this Directive.
(b) ‘Public works contracts’ are public contracts having as their object either the execution, or both the design and execution, of works related to one of the activities within the meaning of Annex I or a work, or the realisation, by whatever means, of a work corresponding to the requirements specified by the contracting authority. A ‘work’ means the outcome of building or civil engineering works taken as a whole which is sufficient of itself to fulfil an economic or technical function.
(c) ‘Public supply contracts’ are public contracts other than those referred to in (b) having as their object the purchase, lease, rental or hire purchase, with or without option to buy, of products.
A public contract having as its object the supply of products and which also covers, as an incidental matter, siting and installation operations shall be considered to be a ‘public supply contract’.
(d) ‘Public service contracts’ are public contracts other than public works or supply contracts having as their object the provision of services referred to in Annex II.
A public contract having as its object both products and services within the meaning of Annex II shall be considered to be a ‘public service contract’ if the value of the services in question exceeds that of the products covered by the contract.
A public contract having as its object services within the meaning of Annex II and including activities within the meaning of Annex I that are only incidental to the principal object of the contract shall be considered to be a public service contract.
Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts
and public service contracts (published OJ 30.4.2004 L 134/114).
The consolidated version of 1 January 2008 of the Procurement Directive 2004/18/EC is available here:
Procurement law overview
The European Commission’s Scadplus web page Public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts offers a business person or a public servant an overview of EC (EU) legislation (last update 14 January 2008):
More detailed Guidelines have been published by the Commission on public supply contracts, public procurement of services and public works contracts. They are based on the repealed Directives, but much of the information is still valid today:
The European Community (European Union) has used Directives to harmonise certain aspects of public procurement. Directives are binding as to the results to be achieved, but the member states are free to choose the means. Usually Directives are transposed by national legislation, and despite the common background and jurisprudence differences exist between the member states.
English – Swedish glossary
The Swedish Competition Authority (Konkurrensverket) has published an English – Swedish glossary of procurement terms (Engelsk- svensk ordlista avseende upphandlingstermer), available at: