Magazine article European Social Policy

Services of General Economic Interest : Stakeholders Want Sgei Package Improved

Magazine article European Social Policy

Services of General Economic Interest : Stakeholders Want Sgei Package Improved

Article excerpt

The proposals to reform the rules on services of general economic interest (SGEIs) represent a step in the right direction but need more work. This was the general message delivered to Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia by stakeholders at a conference organised on this theme, on 30 September, by the College of Europe in Bruges.

This recast brings a welcome simplification by extending the exemptions of aid notifications mainly for small SGEIs and SGEIs linked to the social sector. The former Commissioner Mario Monti said "It is a big step forward, which takes into account the evolution of the sector and the impact of these SGEIs on the internal market," adding that it was a continuation of the Commission's work.

NECESSARY CLARIFICATION

Michel Mercadier, vice-president of the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), holds a more mitigated opinion. While he welcomed the effort made to relax the legislation, he also pointed out the lack of relevance of the condition on the number of inhabitants (10,000) necessary to be exempt from notification and to introduce the notion of efficiency, "which is a company logic and does not fit with the mission of public social services". "Public services do not pose a threat to the market, but the market has better not pose a threat to them," he warned.

MEP Francoise Castex (S&D, France), chair of the Public Services Intergroup at the European Parliament, said that the communications "have brought up as many questions as they have answered" and highlighted several inconsistencies in the package: the fact that economic SGEIs can only be financed in sectors where they can compensate a failing of the market; the definition of "real SGEIs"; the efficiency criterion which sounds like productivity gains, etc. …

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