Five of its articles directly concern the Services of general economic interest: the articles 4, 14, 73, 86 and 87. An interpretative protocol (protocol nr 9 - annexed to the treaty) will develop their contents: the question is how the European Commission and the Parliament will implement it. We can note that article 2 of the protocol mentions, for the first time in European texts, the notion of services of general interest without any other clarification (see text below).
Article 16 of the Nice treaty as follows: “Without prejudice to Articles 73, 86 and 87, and given the place occupied by services of general economic interest in the shared values of the Union as well as their role in promoting social and territorial cohesion, the Community and the Member States, each within their respective powers and within the scope of application of this Treaty(1), shall take care that such services operate on the basis of principles and conditions which enable them to fulfil their missions.”
Will be replaces by a new text: article 14 of the future Lisbon treaty “Without prejudice to Article 4 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 73, 86 and 87, and given the place occupied by services of general economic interest in the shared values of the Union as well as their role in promoting social and territorial cohesion, the Union and the Member State, each within their respective powers and within the scope of application of the Treaties, shall take care that such services operate on the basis of principles and conditions, particularly economic and financial conditions, which enable them to fulfil their missions.
The European Parliament and the Council, acting by means of regulations in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall establish these principles and set these conditions without prejudice to the competence of Member States, in compliance with the Treaties, to provide, to commission and to fund such services”(2).
Three elements have been added:
- the reference to article 4 of the treaty
- the indication that “such services operate on the basis of principles and conditions, particularly economic and financial conditions”
- the Parliament and the Council will decide of the principles and conditions by means of regulations
It is not very new that we have to take into account the economic and financial aspects since the European jurisprudence is based on these notions, but tha fact that it is said that the Parliament and the Council have to act by means of regulations (plural form) rather than through directives is astonishing.
The implementation of one or several directives would have allowed Member State to adapt its texts to its social reality; it will not be possible anymore. Thus, the new article 14 legally confirms the present situation.
At the same time, the Commission adopted on 20 November 2007 a package of initiatives to turn its Citizens' Agenda into a consistent set of actions: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens_agenda/index_fr.htm
Among them, there is notably the communication that we expected on “Services or general interest, including social services of general interest: a new European commitment”: http://ec.europa.eu/services_general_interest/index_en.htm
This communication, on which we will come back, actually goes with the communication called “A single market for 21st century Europe” which proves that only the economic aspect is retained. ---
Protocol nr 9 Article 1 The shared values of the Union in respect of services of general economic interest within the meaning of Article 14 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union include in particular:
- the essential role and the wide discretion of national, regional and local authorities in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest as closely as possible to the needs of the users;
- the diversity between various services of general economic interest and the differences in the needs and preferences of users that may result from different geographical, social or cultural situations;
- a high level of quality, safety and affordability, equal treatment and the promotion of universal access and of user rights.
Article 2 The provisions of the Treaties do not affect in any way the competence of Member States to provide, commission and organise non-economic services of general interest.