EU liberalises public services beyond its borders

(7 February 2006) A new paper on the European Neighbourhood Policy explores how this policy affects public services in neighbourhood countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Balkans and North Africa. The affect is pervasive on public procurement, state-aid, energy but also on health care, municipal services and in general public administration reform. The neighbourhood policy seeks to shape the countries in the image of the EU which is most problematic in the area of public services. Due to the absence of a general frame on public services, competition and internal market rules precede and determine the direction of reform. In a situation of unequal negotiating power, the EU demands commitments that go beyond what is required by EU or WTO membership.

While the European Neighbourhood Policy (EPN) stresses the importance of stability, democracy, human rights and social dialogue, in practice the economic dimension is dominant and favours EU companies. The paper claims the policy makes little difference to reduce unemployment or address poverty.

The author of the paper Dave Hall concludes:

“In effect the ENP creates an international public space for contesting the liberalisation policies, which are in effect the same policies being pursued in the EU and the WTO, in which civil society and political organisation in the EU and the neighbourhood can develop stronger organisation and policy links. The ENP may thus be an opportunity for civil society organisations, including trade unions, to pursue demands for rights and effective voice under the ENP. This could be done by:

- coordination between organisations in the EU and organisations in neighbourhood countries;
- demanding a stronger role as agents of political rights progress;
- exploiting the opportunities for organisational activity and funding under the ENP;
- developing critiques and alternatives to the current liberalisation policies in the action plans.”

EPSU commissioned the paper from Public Services International Research Unit, Europe's foremost research unit regarding public services.

Research paper:

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