(17 November 2017) Recent research of Corporate Europe Observatory raised concerns that the Commission is preparing to push privatisation of key public services in the European Union. The Commission has used public money to finance a private accountancy firm with an established interest in privatisation. The European Commission commissioned the research focused on the “operational and fiscal challenges” which state-owned enterprises place on the public purse. This is an extremely unbalanced research question ignoring the substantial positive contributions these publicly owned companies make to the economy and society. EPSU will approach members of the European Parliament to raise questions over this waste of public money. The Commission is further violating the need to be neutral as to ownership. It has not asked the same question of the operational and fiscal challenges posed by privately owned corporations. With the many tax, corruption and environmental scandals in mind these risks must be substantial. Many private companies and their owners obsessed with seeking the maximization of profit and growth over all else, violate workers’ rights, infringe on health and safety, exploit nature’s resources etc. A recent open letter of 15.000 scientists demonstrates how devastating that model is for humanity.
The Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs has awarded a contract worth €800,000 to global accountancy and consultancy firm KPMG to study state-owned enterprises across EU member states, including to encourage “the adoption of best practices regarding the management (including the restructuring and/or privatisation)...”. The contract, due to conclude at the end of this month, raises many questions. The researchers ask: Will this project reinforce the myth that the private sector is more efficient and therefore better at running public services than the public sector, a myth which is held by some at the top of the EU? Will the EU use this project to ‘recommend’ further structural reforms or privatisation processes on EU member states? And is this study even compatible with the EU’s duty to remain neutral when it comes to the ownership of assets, as set out in the EU Treaty? “ The efficiency myth of the private sector over public enterprise has been debunked by a large body of research and including for EPSU to which the paper refers.