Healthcare, social services and education are not businesses

17 June 2014, Brussels – Today, the Social Platform together with SOLIDAR, the European Federation of Public Services Union (EPSU) and the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) organised a debate on the ‘possible impacts of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on social and health services’ (1). During the discussion, it became clear that the TTIP could have a detrimental impact on essential public services such as social and health services.

Although the European Commission has repeatedly stated that there will be no “race-to-the-bottom” to lower standards or requirements to guarantee the quality of the services or the realisation of social/fundamental rights for everybody, the legitimate concerns of the civil society cannot be dismissed. As recently leaked documents show (2), public services have not been excluded from negotiations. In fact, a liberalisation agenda seems to be driving the TTIP talks. As the documents reveal, the EU seeks an “unprecedented depth in market access and regulatory matters" (3). This stance casts serious doubts about previous assurances that public services will be excluded from the final agreement.

With the article 14 of the EU Treaty, the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and the overarching EU objective to reach a “social market economy” (4) as a backdrop, today’s debate focused on the need to safeguard the quality and accessibility of social and health services once the transatlantic markets are further integrated. Hard-fought milestones in public procurement such as the inclusion of quality standards or the reference to the need to comply with labour law and collective agreements are under threat, as they could be regarded as non-tariff barriers to trade and therefore are at risk to be removed. Economic growth and job creation will not be achieved at the expense of social rights.

If TTIP negotiators keep on brushing off the deal’s potential impact on social and health services, people living in Europe, not least the 120 million living in poverty or at the risk of falling into poverty, will feel the pinch. The event also served as a platform to raise concerns regarding the lack of transparency of the negotiations, and the inclusion of an Investor-State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

SOLIDAR, the Social Platform, EPSU and EPHA are jointly calling on the European Commission to explicitly exclude public services including social and health services from the ongoing TTIP negotiations, as well as ensuring full transparency during the entire negotiating process, including the publication of all negotiating texts.

The public has the right to know what is being negotiated on their behalf. As the European elections have shown, citizens expect the European Commission to legislate and act in their interests and to communicate better. The TTIP is THE occasion to prove that the EU takes its citizens seriously.

{ {Notes to editors

1) The event “Possible impacts of TTIP on social and health services” provided a platform for civil society actors, academics and trade unions to exchange views with representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade, to raise major concerns and to pose questions.

2) A leak of the EU’s draft offer regarding services and investment was made available for comments from Member states in the European Commission from 13th to 30th of June.

3) Leaked documents TTIP reveal substantial EU commitments, public services not excluded, the European Federation of Public Services Union (EPSU), 13 June 2014.

4) Art.14 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and in particular Protocol n°26 on Services of General Interest that indicates that Member States have the sole competence to provide, commission and organise non-economic services of general interest.

- Read SOLIDAR’s briefing paper on TTIP.

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