Belgium tightens rules around public tenders to avoid foreign spying
The Belgian government is tightening rules around public procurement to avoid espionage and sabotage from abroad. Companies that are not reliable or cannot guarantee data security can now be more easily barred from public tenders.
Government orders for the installation of cameras and the delivery of scanners for customs or orders near critical infrastructure carry a risk of espionage and sabotage by foreign powers. Belgium's state security has therefore worked out new rules to minimise that risk, reports Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne.
It is now mandatory to use a so-called 'quick scan' to check whether the contract poses a risk to national security. If it does, several additional safeguards will apply. For example, companies that cannot guarantee data security can be excluded from supplies, works or services for military or sensitive purposes. If necessary, the contract may even be restricted to companies from the European Economic Area.
"Free competition in public procurement is important, but this should not blind us to certain risks"
Even if the public procurement is not for military or sensitive purposes, additional measures are possible, but extra justification must then be given as to why certain companies are rejected.
"Free competition in public procurement is important, but this should not blind us to certain risks when it comes to our national security and strategic interests," Van Quickenborne points out.
Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder is "convinced that with these new rules and in combination with our considerable investments in our intelligence services and cyber security, we can better safeguard our national security interests".
The debate on public procurements has been going on for a while. For example, China owns around 90% of the container terminal in Zeebrugge, which is seen as a potential security risk.
Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne. © BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT