The Commission’s decision to scale down its ambitions for public service regulation has been met with contempt by trade unions, public employers, NGOs and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.
The Communication defines SGI as “the services, both economic and non-economic, which the public authorities classify as being of general interest and subject to specific public service obligations”.
The publication of a Communication in lieu of binding legislation means, however, that there will not be an EU-wide binding definition of SGI. This also means that it will be left to member states’ discretion whether they can privatise services ranging from fundamental healthcare to water supply. Moreover, a number of crucial questions with respect to state aid and tendering procedures will remain unanswered.
The paper goes on to state that “these services are essential for the daily life of citizens and enterprises, and reflect Europe’s model of society”. It adds that “they play a major role in ensuring social, economic and territorial cohesion throughout the Union and are vital for the sustainable development of the EU in terms of higher levels of employment, social inclusion and economic growth”.
The Commission finds that “scope and organisation” of SGI “vary significantly according to histories and cultures of state intervention” across the member states. It therefore opts for a sectoral approach, where existing or pending EU legislation is to be reviewed to ensure that EU internal market rules clash neither with the provision of SGI in one member state nor with privatisation plans in another.