The EESC today urged the Commission and European Parliament to launch a thorough evaluation of state-owned enterprises, the efficiency and competitiveness of which remains largely unchecked. Arguing that public enterprises are key to economic recovery, the EESC repeated calls for a European statute and the development of cross-border public services, providing proper evaluation methods are implemented.
The EESC's opinion, developed at the request of the upcoming Lithuanian Presidency, argues that there has been insufficient analysis of the impact of public enterprises on the internal market, despite ongoing reforms by member states and the importance of such enterprises to national competitiveness.
According to the EESC, improved economic growth at the European level also depends upon investment in public service sectors such as education, transport and healthcare, offering an opportunity for public authorities to intervene by creating public enterprises.
"It is sometimes said that public companies are not efficient, but there are no methods of evaluation at either national or EU level," said Raymond Hencks, rapporteur of the opinion. "We need a scientific method of evaluation, with Europe-wide norms, to find out how these companies function, before we can look to economic recovery."
Although EU law only applies to certain areas concerning the activities of SOEs, the EESC proposes that efforts to give SOE reform a European dimension should be limited to non-legislative measures and no targets should be set for new regulation. The privatisation of SOEs should also remain exclusively a matter for the Member States, in accordance with the EU treaties.
A new "statute for an EU public enterprise"
Going one step further, however, the EESC argues for the introduction of a statute for an EU public enterprise, enabling the creation of integrated, cross-border providers in network industries such as gas and electricity. The EESC's opinion details a European energy service with a common pricing approach and the opportunity for public-private partnerships to integrate different energy sources and boost security.
"The questions posed by the management of natural resources, nuclear energy and climate change, for example, cut across national borders and can be more satisfactorily addressed through a concept of general interest," said Mr Hencks. "A European service would be extremely beneficial in this regard."
Other opinions requested by the Lithuanian Presidency, such as "Female employment in relation to growth", will be debated at the 18-19 September EESC plenary session.