Magazine article European Social Policy

Internal Market : Socialists Urge Commission to Legislate on Public Services

Magazine article European Social Policy

Internal Market : Socialists Urge Commission to Legislate on Public Services

Article excerpt

Socialist Members of the European Parliament have taken the unusual step of drafting a Directive on services of general interest. While, legally speaking, the European Commission has the sole right to initiate such legislation, the Socialists have decided to make the first move to put political pressure on the EU executive. An early draft seen by Europolitics Energy suggests that MEPs want to focus on services of general economic interest (gas, electricity, water, waste, etc). A final blueprint should be submitted to the Commission in mid-April, most likely just after the revised draft Services Directive is put forward.

SILENCE FROM BRUSSELS

Since taking office in November 2004, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said little about his intentions in this domain. The last time the Commission did speak out - in a May 2004 White Paper on services of general interest- it said it had no immediate plans for a horizontal Directive on public services. There is also the tricky question of what is legally possible because while the beleaguered EU Constitution provided a definite legal basis for a Directive, Article 16 of the current EC Treaty is not as clear.

COMPENSATION FOR BOLKESTEIN?

Many on the left were disappointed by the Parliament vote on the draft 'Bolkestein' Directive on February 16, which aims to scrap administrative barriers to cross-border trade in services. They wanted to totally exclude services of general economic interest (SGEIs) from the Directive's scope. But the compromise reached between the EPP-ED and Socialists only excluded services of general interest (SGIs), such as healthcare and social welfare. This new initiative in a sense seeks to compensate for this loss on the Bolkestein Directive.a

DEFINITION BUT NO LIST

The provisional draft defines SGEIs as "essentially industrial or commercial" and supplied either by a government authority, a company controlled by the government or a company that is obliged by law or contract to fulfil public service obligations. …

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