The conference was structured around three large sessions discussing three wide ranging topics:
_ 1. The place of services of general interest in the Reform Treaty and the Single Market Review;
_ 2. The Conditions for a successful integration of services of general interest into the single market concept;
_ 3. The social and health services facing single market and competition law.
Each of these sessions led to a debate between the speakers and the audience. Concerning the first topic everybody agreed on the importance of article 14 of the reform treaty (new article 16) and of its interpretative annex (protocol) n° 9. For the first time, the notion of SGI is mentioned in the European texts.
However, to the question how this article 14 would be carried out, taking into account the difficulties that it would face (the use of regulations instead of directives), the Commission representative declared that the Commission had no intention to implement it: protocol n° 9 would allegedly be self-sufficient!
The disapproval of the audience was unanimous: article 14 obliges the Council and the Parliament to legislate on this matter.
_ Second topic:
_ The position of the representative of Business Europe was very explicit and reflects the political line of the Commission.
According to her, every decision level, be it national, regional or local can, in conformity with European texts, decide in all sovereignty what a SGI is and, as long as this government level directly ensures the management of this SGI, escape the implementation of the market rules.
On the other hand, if the SGI is externalized, competition rules must be applied. The Commission shares this opinion entirely, and it is on this basis that it considers useless to insert a definition of the " In House " in community law as CEEP requests.
Finally, on the third topic, the participants considered that the dissociation between social services and health services was neither appropriate nor realistic. Those arguments have already been developed for a long time. Today, we can only wait for the communication on health services to be published on December 19 on the services of health, in order to take position.
Guy Boucquiaux, responsible of legal matters at CECOP