Stakeholders urge EU legal framework for public services

The Socialists, backed by unions and social NGOs are urging the Commission to come up with a concrete EU legislative proposal on public services to ensure that public interest comes before commercial profit.

“It is now politically and legally urgent to clarify the rules applied to services of general economic interest in Europe, to guarantee that they will not be submitted to the sole logic of the internal market and competition,” said PES Group Vice-President Harlem Désir in a conference on ‘European framework for high-quality public services’.

The conference was jointly organised by the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee of the EU, in co-operation with the Parliament’s Socialist Group, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation (CEEP), and the European Social Platform on 19 April 2007.

The conference aimed to launch a broad debate about the Commission’s communication on the follow-up of the White Paper on services of general interest (2004), due in the coming weeks.

Services of general interest were excluded from the scope of the final version of the controversial Services Directive, and as a reaction to the Commission’s 2004 White Paper, the Parliament is currently calling on the EU executive to adopt “appropriate legislative initiatives” to guarantee high quality and affordability of public services. 

“We ask the European Commission once more to stop launching largely non-committal, cosmetic and non-legislative initiatives in this respect. We need a concrete EU horizontal legislative proposal on public services,” said Harlem Désir.

Good public services are “a key factor for sustainable growth, more competitiveness, more and better employment, for greater social and territorial cohesion in an enlarged Europe, for addressing the demographic challenges and for improving the quality of the environment,” underlined the general secretaries of ETUC and CEEP John Monks and Rainer Plassmann. 

ETUC believes that key public services are being undermined by liberalisation, privatisation and the introduction of free-market rules. The confederation launched, in November 2006, a Europe-wide petition calling on the Commission to propose a framework directive to create a legal basis for these services.

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