New Commission report on evaluation of public services criticised

April 2006,

Evaluating network services in Europe

- a critique of the EC Evaluation of the Performance of Network Industries, by David Hall, PSIRU

Preface

This is the second critique by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) on the European Commission's evaluation of the performance of network industries (EPNI). It has been written by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), with input from an expert meeting organised by EPSU on 22 February 2006.

As with the first critique, the aim is to challenge the EPNI process itself - both in terms of how it is carried out and in the conclusions it draws - and to argue for an alternative approach. The critique makes a number of concrete demands for change, including:
- The need for an independent, participative, and democratic process: the European Commission should not provide the defence, jury and judge for its own policies. Rather, this should be a task of a European observatory on Services of General Interest/Services of General Economic Interest (SGI).
- the definition of broader objectives for the evaluation; i.e.
- assess the objectives of liberalisation - e.g. efficiency, productivity, price levels etc - against the actual evidence of developments;
- assess the impact of the liberalisation directives, internal market rules, state aid rules and other EU level frameworks on the development of SGI in Member States (at national, regional and local level);
- assess the extent to which SGI in Member States contribute to public policy objectives;
- provide comparative information to assist Member States in improving their own services, and to support collaborative arrangements between them.
- The need for active follow-up. What responses should follow the evaluation? The EC and Member States should be prepared to re-assess policies on liberalisation of SGI, and to respond to the results of the evaluation with comments and proposals for action to address the issues identified.

We hope that our critique contributes to the development of a more rigorous evaluation process for the EU liberalisation policies, and also to an alternative (positive) policy agenda for SGI. Such and alternative policy would be based on the following elements:
- The cost of ‘non-public' as illustrated in segregation and social exclusion, but also long-term financial implications;
- Sustainable development based on quality SGI and jobs through investment into public administrations and infrastructures in areas, such as education, environment, health and social services;
- Democratic control of service delivery and accountability;
- Regulation of private companies providing SGI;
- Equal rights and opportunities for all and fairer taxation and distribution of wealth.

Feedback and comments on the critique are welcome.

Jan Willem Goudriaan
EPSU Deputy General Secretary
epsu@epsu.org