EU governance and social services of general interest: When even the UK is concerned

Aristea Koukiadaki

Abstract


The level of autonomy afforded to Member States to define certain services as ‘services of general interest’ and to shelter them from the market so as to promote social objectives has become in recent years a highly sensitive topic among EU and national policy actors and organisations. The increased activity in this area of the European Commission and the general absence of guidance on the conditions necessary to render such services of general interest by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have resulted in uncertainty concerning the interaction of EU law with social services and more generally public services in the EU Member States. By focusing on the EU regulation on social services of general interest, the paper evaluates how the nature and provision of such services in the UK has been susceptible to changes as a result of the Services Directives, EU public procurement and competition law. The implementation of liberalisation plans in the UK well before any EU initiatives in this area meant that such services have been open to market forces well before other Member States. However, this has not led to the absence of concerns regarding the precise impact of EU law in this area. Recent policy initiatives by the Coalition government may expand further the degree of marketisation and increase the scope for interaction between EU and national-level regulation.

Keywords


law; Europeanization; governance; provision of services; U.K.; social policy

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