Services of General Economic Interest: European Law's Impact on the Role of Markets and of Member States

Heike Schweitzer

in Market Integration and Public Services in the European Union

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199607730
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725258 | DOI:

Series: Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law

Services of General Economic Interest: European Law's Impact on the Role of Markets and of Member States

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This chapter shows that the persistent friction between EU law and the Member States' public service traditions is ultimately caused by fundamentally different conceptions of the role of markets and the role of states. While well-defined social guarantees and public interest missions can frequently be reconciled case by case with the Union's interest in the protection of free movement and competition rules, the underlying visions remain at odds and are ultimately irreconcilable. This explains the remarkable persistence and fierceness of the debate. The chapter starts with a look at the national ‘public service’ traditions, notably the French ‘service public’ conception and the German concept of ‘Daseinsvorsorge,’ and contrasts them with the principles according to which EU law tries to reconcile the protection of national public interest conceptions with the Union's interest to implement the free movement, competition, and state aid rules. Part 3 and Part 4 of the chapter delimit the scope of typical tensions between national public service regimes and EU law by looking at exclusive rights and state subsidies, respectively. Part 5 briefly reviews the evolution of the case law on Article 106(2) Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which is meant to mediate the tensions. Part 6 highlights some models of SGEI provision as developed in sector-specific secondary law. Part 7 draws together the various threads, explicating the conception of the role of the market and the role of the state underlying EU law and contrasting it with traditional national conceptions. Part 8 considers some open questions, discussing in which direction European law on SGEIs may evolve.

Keywords: EU law; national public service; exclusive rights; state subsidies; case law; sector-specific secondary law

Chapter.  30803 words. 

Subjects: EU Law

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