31st Oct 2020

Commission will not exempt public services from competition

Proponents of competition-free management of services like health and education suffered a defeat on Tuesday (12 May) as the European Commission presented its approach to public services in the near future.

The Commission's so-called "White paper" on public services, such as energy, postal services, health, education and social services, sets out the Commission's ideas on the issue following a broad public consultation with different groups ranging from business to trade unions.

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  • Education - subject to competition? (Photo: European Commission)

Some trade unions and other groups had pleaded for a general European "framework law" that would clearly define and restrict the EU's competition and internal market rules, so that public services would be exempted from liberalisation and privatization.

Some contributors to the consultation had pleaded for a "negative list" of public services that would not be subject to competition.

However, the Commission seems to have taken side with pro-market forces, as it concluded in the "White paper" that there is "insufficient evidence of the added value of horizontal framework legislation" - meaning general EU legislation on public services that would not be confined to one sector only.

Currently, different public service sectors each fall under specific EU laws.

In the consultation with the Commission, business and other groups had pointed out that a general EU framework law would endanger the liberalisation of specific services which is currently taking place.

These forces also argued that such a law would be incompatible with the EU's "Lisbon strategy" - the goal to become the most competitive economy in the world by 2010.

Member states and the European parliament are also said to be opposed to the framework law.


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