More clarity for state aid in general services

The Commission on 17 October adopted a report to increase legal certainty and transparency in the application of state aid rules for services of general interest. An improved system of evaluation of these services should “benefit” the citizens.

The report proposes a number of concrete actions by the Commission:

  • In 2002, establish guidelines for state aid granted for services of general interest;
  • Depending on the experience with the guidelines, adopt legislation exempting certain aid granted in the area of services of general interest from the obligation of prior notification to the Commission (block exemption);
  • Examine additional measures to further clarify the EU rules and principles applicable to the selection of the provider of services of general interest;
  • Develop a system of annual horizontal evaluation of services of general interest;
  • In 2002, publish a communication developing an evaluation methodology;
  • Improve its sectoral reporting and strengthen the focus on services of general interest.


The draft Parliament report emphasises that fair competition between undertakings is generally more appropriate than a situation in which only public undertakings or those with special rights provide certain general interest services.

The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) aims for the establishment of a European Framework Directive which would allow services of general interest to fulfill their missions within the internal market.



The Commission report was requested by the Council at its meeting in Nice in December 2001. This report is in line with its general policy orientations as set out in communications of 1996 and 2000. In its communication of 1996 the Commission described services of general interest as lying "at the heart of the European model of society".

It does not replace the two earlier communications but complements them by addressing concerns raised subsequent to the adoption of the communication of September 2000.


  • The report will be discussed during the Laeken summit in December 2001.
  • A first review of its system of annual horizontal evaluation of services of general interest will be published in the framework of its report on structural reform (Cardiff report) in early December 2001.


Subscribe to our newsletters