Commission adopts Green Paper on services of general interest

On 21 May, the Commission released its consultative Green Paper on services of general interest.

"Services of general interest" is a broad term that covers market services such as transport, energy, communication and postal services, as well as "non-economic" services like health and education.

The document, which aims to tackle services in the "economic" and "non-economic" sectors alike, bases most of its conclusions on the premise that liberalisation - i.e., the opening up of the EU's broad markets to competition - has the potential to exert a positive influence on the quality and price of the services, and also on the job market. A key underlying question is whether such services should be state-run or privatised.

The Green Paper recognises the divergent approach of the Member States to the organisation of their respective public services, and the Commission aims to leave it up to the national, regional and local authorities to define the scope of their services of general interest and to uphold the quality of these services. These differences are due to the different ways nations conceive of public services and the principles, constitutional values, legal approaches, and organisational and management models underlying them.

The importance of services of general interest was highlighted at the Cannes European Council in June 1995 as belonging to a set of shared values which define Europe. In 1996, the Commission defined services of general interest as being at the heart of the European model of society.

The Commission expects to receive feedback on the 29 questions raised in the Green Paper from the affected stakeholders by 15 September 2003.


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