Services of General Interest : Communication Outlines a Tentative Step towards a Text

European Social Policy, April 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

Services of General Interest : Communication Outlines a Tentative Step towards a Text


Rather than a directive on services of general interest (SGI), the European Commission may choose to propose an alternative approach, namely endorsement of the common principles of SGI through an interinstitutional agreement or a joint declaration by the three institutions (Council, Parliament and Commission). That is the current orientation of a draft communication on SGI circulating at the Commission.

For the Commission, adoption (possibly by the end of 2007) would be "a decisive new step" towards consolidation of the European framework applicable to SGI. These principles would then serve as a key reference for all action at European level and at all levels of governance and as a guide for the development of future sectoral or other initiatives. The text would nevertheless not replace existing horizontal or sectoral instruments, nor would it challenge EU Court of Justice case law.

SECTORAL APPROACH

The Commission also points out that it is committed to pursuing and developing a sectoral approach by proposing specific rules for each sector as appropriate, particularly in the social andhealth fields.

As it stands, the communication sets out eight common principles, already contained, often in more detail, in previous documents such as the White Paper of May 2004.

EIGHT PRINCIPLES

Services for citizens. The member state authorities are free to define SGI and to organise, regulate and finance these services in line with EU rules. This competence cannot undermine the EU's power to define a system of public services and universal service obligations in certain sectors.

Diversity. Different needs and different situations (economic, social, geographic, cultural) must be respected.

Quality, safety and accessibility. This principle includes both cross-border services and specific procedures for low-income persons. …

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