The ETUC believes it is time to take decisive action to safeguard key public services - known in the EU as services of general interest (SGIs) or services of general economic interest (SGEIs) - which are being undermined by liberalisation, privatisation, and the introduction of free market rules. At its last Executive Committee on 18-19 October, the ETUC adopted a strategy urging the European Commission to propose a framework directive to create a legal basis for vital services, ensuring that public interest takes precedence over commercial profit.
SGIs have a decisive influence on the quality of people's lives, and are central to social, economic and regional cohesion in Europe. For this reason the ETUC regards universal access to services - covering anything from water, energy supply and waste management, to healthcare and social services, education and postal services - as a fundamental right.
“Services in the EU need a strong regulatory framework to ensure continuity of supply and fair access for everyone,” said ETUC General Secretary John Monks. “They must be of the highest standard, and therefore accountable to both consumers and workers in these crucial sectors.”
Just two weeks ago, the European Parliament approved the proposal for a directive on services in the single market, which had been substantially amended following a resolute campaign by trade unions across Europe, led by the ETUC. Those changes focused, among other things, on the need to keep SGIs out of the scope of a directive that is designed to boost competition between service providers.
The ETUC has already put forward a draft directive (20.09.06), as have other key actors, giving the Commission a basis to work from. But so far, despite repeated requests, no proposal has come forward.
The petition campaign will be coordinated by the ETUC in cooperation with its affiliates in EU Member States and other partners.
The petition will be available for signature both online and on paper, and will be offer an opportunity for the ETUC and affiliated organisations to launch a wide debate on public services in the EU.