- Principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights introduces the concept of "essential services" into the EU, something which does not exist as such in the Treaties but which provides that "[e]veryone has the right to access essential services of good quality, including water, sanitation, energy, transport, financial services and digital communications. Support for access to such services shall be available for those in need".
- Given the examples of the services described as "essential" in principle 20, the EESC considers this to be a reference to services of general economic interest, which are already covered by EU law, in particular by Protocol 26 on services of general interest which is annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Although its interpretative provisions go further than a mere guarantee of access to quality, some of them – to widely varying degrees – are insufficiently regulated and implemented in the Member States.
- The EESC therefore welcomes the fact that principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights reaffirms the right to access essential services. These are a vital component of social justice and are underpinned by the principle of equal treatment of users, prohibiting any kind of discrimination or exclusion whatsoever, and by the principle of universal access to services of a high level of affordability and quality.