Europe poised for confrontation over Bulgarian F-16 procurement
By Brooks Tigner
Bulgaria's goal of switching from the competitive procurement of fighter aircraft to a single source, government-to-government purchase of used F-16s could run into trouble with European Union (EU) competition rules - even though the EU's defence procurement directive technically allows such an exemption, EU sources have confirmed to IHS Jane's .
Any legal action would hinge on whether Sofia's action was seen as having violating the spirit of the directive, the sources added.
"If this were to go through, not even the commission could immediately stop it," a European Defence Agency (EDA) official said on 4 February. "It would have to rise up to the [EU's Luxembourg-based] Court of Justice to decide."
A European Parliament (EP) defence policy staffer who co-ordinates closely with the European Commission on defence industrial policy issues, put it more bluntly. "This exemption is a potential loophole [in the directive]; that is true. But our bottom line is that it all boils down to whether competition is possible. A government-to-government sale is okay but it becomes a problem if it is applied when competition is possible - and that is the clearly the case here," the source told IHS Jane's on 6 February.193 of 909 words
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