Communication on Social Services of General Interest: "A necessary but inadequate first step"

Brussels, 26/04/2006

The publication certainly indicates progress towards recognition of such services, and of the need to clarify the conditions for applying certain Community rules. The ETUC is happy to note the intention of setting the procedure for monitoring and dialogue within the framework of the open method of coordination, and stresses the need to consult the European social partners.

Yet while the ETUC considers that this first step is necessary, it is still inadequate. The Commission must go further with its proposals in this regard, in order to establish greater legal certainty, through a framework directive on services of general interest (SGI), which should also make it possible to take account of the specific character of social services.

It is important to remember that these services are designed for people, and they arise from systems of solidarity aimed at fulfilling a mission of general interest in order to contribute to the objectives of social and territorial cohesion and to guarantee the effective implementation of fundamental rights. So they cannot be subject merely to market forces, based on the law of commercial competition alone.

At the same time, the ETUC holds the view that it is necessary to expand the definition of these services, excluded from the scope of the directive on services in the internal market. The Commission has adopted an approach that is too restrictive. Social services are not provided only to the poor or the excluded, they often have to meet the needs and expectations of all individuals. The ETUC knows from experience that focusing on policies for the poor leads too often to the implementation of poor policies.

The ETUC will continue to work actively, together with other relevant partners, to win measures for social Europe that are worthy of the name.