European Commission adopts Quality Framework for Services of General Interest in the EU
The European Commission has adopted on 20 December a Quality Framework for Services of General Interest (SGI) in the EU. They provide an essential safety net for citizens in areas such as health care, care for the elderly, child care, assistance to disabled persons and social housing. They also have a key role to play in the knowledge economy in the area of schools, training centres and university. At a time when public authorities are confronted with the need for fiscal consolidation, it is essential to ensure that right framework is in place so that high-quality services can be provided as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. This framework will help Member States to ensure that the regulatory environment at EU level continues to reinforce the social dimension of the single market, and to take better account of the specific nature of these services when designing new initiatives. It will also help Member States to deliver these services in a way which incorporates the values of quality, safety and affordability, equal treatment, universal access and users' rights which are recognised in Protocol 26 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The quality framework consists of three complementary strands of action:
- Enhancing clarity and legal certainty on how EU rules apply to services of general interest (SGI), and revising the rules when necessary to ensure that specific needs are catered for. The Commission is presenting alongside this Communication reforms of two key sets of rules - for state aid for Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) and for public procurement/concessions - both of which will increase flexibility and simplification for Member States when providing these services. These reforms also aim at increasing convergence between both policies, to provide a simpler approach for stakeholders.
- Ensuring access to essential services: the Commission will take forward its commitment to ensure access for all citizens to essential services in specific sectors building on recent actions in the field of basic banking, postal services, electronic communications, transport and energy.
- Promoting quality: the Commission will reinforce its commitment to promoting quality in the field of social services, and will use the achievements in this area as a model for other services of general interest.
For more information, please see the EC Press release.