Services of general interest (SGI), whether economic or non-economic, meet basic needs and play a key role in promoting social and territorial cohesion in the EU and in the success of the Lisbon Strategy. Many network companies (gas, electricity, transport, postal services, telecommunications and so on) manage international infrastructure that deliver services of general interest, which require special attention.
A permanent study group has been set up at the Committee in 2005 to evaluate and promote the expectations of European organised civil society concerning services of general interest. This permanent study group helps to take forward the debate at European level to ensure that there are services of general interest and that they are accessible, affordable and of good quality for all.
The EESC has been urging for years that common benchmarks for services of general interest be defined at Community level, as well as common standards (in particular for management and financing methods, the principles and limits of the Community’s action, independent performance evaluation, consumer and user rights, a minimum level of public service missions and obligations). The Committee also underlines the need to establish policy guidelines for the impact of globalisation on services of general interest.
In September 2009, the EESC will adopt an own-initiative opinion on the clarification of distribution of competencies between the EU and the Member States in the field of services of general economic interest. This own-initiative opinion could allow to address the issue of the definition of services of general economic interest at Community level.
The Committee regularly joins with the other European institutions in holding hearings and conferences.