Abstract: Public procurement is a policy area located between two contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, the European Commission strives for greater competition to widen procurement markets. On the other hand, the boosting of competition encounters resistance among the member states. This article investigates how these colliding tendencies played out during the initial stages of the Covid-19 crisis and, more specifically, how changes in the field of procurement affected legitimate governance in the EU. Based on institutionalist and EU governance theories, the study contributes to the literature with three principal findings. First, it demonstrates that the pandemic enabled exogenously driven changes in the field of public procurement with new policies and guidelines, while the EU’s overall aims in this field were upheld. Second, the study demonstrates that the Commission was the main driver of change and that it enhanced the harmonisation of procurement rules and supranational integration despite the crisis. Third, while these changes strengthened the role of supranational actors, the study demonstrates that the changes introduced allow member states increased flexibility when it comes to the implementation. In practice, however, this flexibility has the potential to undermine the EU’s initial aims, thereby jeopardising the EU’s legitimacy.
Keywords: Covid-19; EU governance; European Commission; European integration; institutionalism; legitimacy; public procurement