01 July 2011

The expectations placed in the European Union by public service users and providers continue not to be met. At best, public services are viewed as left by the wayside of European construction. At worse, the European Union is held responsible for the weakening of public services though privatization. SGI, SGEI, SSGI, SGNEI—the various forms of public services—as seen by European citizens, play a role which is increasingly insignificant and difficult to grasp.

The new session of the European Parliament 2009-2014 must be a session for the clarification and reinforcement of the impact of public services in Europe.

First, because the Lisbon Treaty gives the European Parliament, by co-decision with the Council, a new competency: definition of the principles and determination of the economic and financial conditions enabling SGEIs to perform their missions without prejudice to the competencies of the Member States for the provision, performance and finance of these services.

Second, it is urgent to assure the performance of public services missions, whether directly or indirectly, by the Member States, regions and communes in Europe. Local and national elected members cannot be dispossessed of their political responsibilities and competencies in this field.

Finally, there is a strong demand for social services from European citizens. European citizens wish the European Union to guarantee them access to fundamental services (education, healthcare, water, energy, communications…), and respond to their deep aspirations, for equality of access to and public regulation of the delivery of, such services. The economic and social crisis cannot but reinforce this expectation and the urgency of our responsibility.

The ambition of the Public Services Intergroup is to contribute to the development and clarification of the debate on public services, and to bring forward proposals. Through holding meetings monthly, which regularly draw more than one hundred participants, the Intergroup has demonstrated its capacity to promote in-depth debate and exchange of points of view between political groups, other European institutions (Council, Commission, Committee of the Regions and European Economic and Social Committee), as well with the European public services partners and actors.

European Commissioners Laszlo Andor, Joacquin Almunia and Michel Barnier have replied to our invitations and demonstrated that they were available for debate and discussion.

We have also carried out in-depth work with the Presidency of the Council represented by Laurette Onkelinx, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, notably in the organization, holding and follow-up to the 3rd SSGI forum.

2010 ended with the Communication from the Commission entitled “Towards a Single Market Act for a highly competitive social market economy.” Whereas the Europe 2020 strategy makes no reference to public services, we greet he Single Market Act proposal with interest because of the frame it provides for work going forward in the next two years. The Public Services Intergroup will contribute to ensuring that the Single Market Act is also a political reference framework, establishing a new balance, through solidarity and public intervention, tempering the excesses of free market competition.

Public services must play an effective role in European construction.

The European Parliament is committed to action to ensure this.

– Public services are not services like any other, as they are the instruments of the implementation of the social contract and constitute a major pillar of the social market economy.
– Public services are not only at the heart of a model of a society as we would wish it to be, but also one of the end purposes of the construction of the European Union.
-A certain number of services are practical embodiments of the fundamental rights set out in the Charter. The challenge now is to realise the full potential of the Treaty, notably its Article 9 (the transverse social clause).
– Budget policies must not whittle away at the financing of public services. Public services play a determining role as a means to emerge from economic crisis. These services enable the creation of jobs of high quality that must be provided locally, cannot be off-shored and build economic and social cohesion.
– A further review of past policy on public services networks would now appear necessary, so as to re-assess the effects of liberalization. Some partners even asked for a moratorium on current round of liberalization.
– The Intergroup considers it to be a priority to set up regular consultations with citizens and end-users of public services in order to precisely measure their expectations and include them in the European strategy in this field.
– The Intergroup pleads for the principles assured implementation across Europe, both in terms of the quality of service and of service user rights.
– The Intergroup wishes to undertake reflexion on how European public services are delivered in key sectors o f society for the purposes of European integration and development, in areas such as rail infrastructure.
– In the fields of energy networks and in the European transport market, the explore the possibility of creating true services of general interest in Europe.
– The Intergroup finally emphasizes the need for discussion with the European Commission and Council on the definition of a model of society and the drafting of a legal framework to preserve the place of public services within the Single Market. The conclusion of the third forum on “Social Services of General interest” and the 15 proposals formulated at that forum can usefully form the basis of that discussion.

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