The Implications of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI)

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Series Details No.1, 2011, p45-47
Publication Date 2011
ISSN 1025-6253
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Services of General Interest (SGEI) are, in the wording of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), among the ‘shared values of the Union’ and play an important role in ‘promoting social and territorial cohesion’. These services cover a wide range of activities and utilities ranging from water supply and ambulance services to the setting up of telecommunication infrastructures. Their role in the development of certain regions or in the inclusion of certain social categories has been acknowledged in numerous Commission documents and courts’ rulings.

The financing of SGEI is in principle allowed, if this is necessary in order to ensure the proper functioning of the markets for the benefit of the consumers. For Member States
the financing of SGEI is a means of achieving the social and cohesion objectives set up in their constitutions. However, for the European Union (EU), this financing may constitute a distortion of the competition between Member States and is subject to close scrutiny.

This terrain is therefore a field in which the clear definition of the services and national interests concerned and the delimitation between national and EU competences is of crucial importance.

In several different contexts the Europe 2020 Commission strategy mentions social cohesion as an objective which needs to be reached by the EU in the next decade. However, in none of these contexts are the SGEI mentioned, although these services are instrumental in that respect. What does this silence mean? What are the implications of the 2020 strategy on the definition and financing of SGEI? Are there any consequences for the current and future regulatory framework of SGEI?

[Article forms part of 30th Anniversary Special Issue of EIPASCOPE]

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