National security and critical infrastructure

In recent times, there has been an increased focus on protecting security interests in public procurement. Dramatic geopolitical developments at the Eastern border of the European Union, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, have resulted in increased awareness of risks of espionage and geopolitical dependencies which may restrict the supply of critical goods and services, such as the procurement of military equipment.

There seems to be a conviction in the Netherlands that the government should be less naive in using technology from countries with conflicting geopolitical interests in the Dutch critical infrastructure. In 2018, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) warned that sensitive public tenders create security risks, such as disturbances in the critical infrastructure, espionage, leakage of state secrets and geopolitically undesirable dependencies. These risks were emphasized in the last coalition agreement, which stated that the Netherlands should become more independent with regards to ‘strategic goods and services.’ At the EU level, there have also been initiatives to become more independent from countries who do not share our beliefs about an open society; thereby strengthening the EU’s own ‘strategic autonomy’ for instance by screening foreign investments. This tendency is rapidly expanding since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To allow security organizations to mitigate national security risks better, the EU legislature has issued the Directive on public procurement concerning defense and security contracts (Directive 2009/81/EC). In 2013 this Directive has been implemented by the Dutch legislator in the Aanbestedingswet op Defensie en Veiligheidsgebied (Procurement Act on defense and security). In practice however, security risks often also arise in the activities of governments and utilities that are not necessarily within the scope of the special legislation.

UUCePP conducts legal and multidisciplinary research, aimed at effectively incorporating security risks into military procurement specifically as well as procurement of security organizations, governments, and essential facilities in general.

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