Public Services and Related Concepts in the European Union: Understanding the European Union’s Legal Framework for Services of General Economic Interest


Aleš Ferčič
Doctor of Juridical Science, University of Maribor, Faculty of Law, Maribor, Slovenia

Series: Laws and Legislation
BISAC: BUS069000
DOI: 10.52305/LERD9769

Public services or more precisely, to use the EU’s terminology, services of general economic interest have traditionally played a vital role in the normal functioning of the society in the Member States. Yet, their equity or non-economic components have often caused tensions with the internal market components, such as the free movement of production factors, competition and economic efficiency. To put it simply, their place within the internal market has been for a long time a persistent irritant in the European public debate.

However, the situation has changed over time, in particular after the Lisbon Treaty which introduced the “new context” which seems to be more friendly to services of general economic interest than ever before. In this regard it is worth noting that, given the place occupied by services of general economic interest in the shared values of the EU as well as their role in promoting social and territorial cohesion, the EU and the Member States, each within their respective powers and within the scope of application of the Treaties, must take care that such services operate on the basis of principles and conditions, particularly economic and financial conditions, which enable them to fulfil their missions. It is a kind of joint responsibility for the effective provision of services of general economic interest which indicates that also the EU institutions must accept them as a building block of the European (market) integration process. In fact, the recent case law seems to support this thesis.

The Post-Lisbon state of play in the discussed field is in the center of the book but for practical reasons it also offers a broader view to a reader.

The book consists of the three interrelated chapters which relate in one way or another to services of general economic interest and corresponding supranational legal framework. The latter is par excellence topic of the EU (law). The introductory chapter is designed as the EU law toolkit which explains the values and aims of the EU, its competences and institutional structure, the fundamental legal principles and concepts which are of particular importance for services of general economic interest. This is followed by the second chapter, which sets the scene by explaining the socio-political background at the both levels, national and supranational.

In addition, the second chapter discusses the concept of services of general economic interest and related concepts. The third chapter is the very core of the book because it discusses the present EU’s legal framework for services of general economic interest. In addition to the general and sector-specific hard law, it includes most relevant case law and soft law. The main emphasis is, however, on the primary (constitutional) EU law, predominantly on the part relating market competition, e.g. Art. 101–109 TFEU, and on the part which directly address services of general economic interest, e.g. Art. 14 and the related Protocol, Art. 106(2) TFEU, and Art. 36 CFREU.

As such, the book could be interesting for all those who, in one way or another, deal with public services or services of general economic interest. Namely, the book is primarily oriented towards experts dealing with those services within the EU, however, due to its structure as well as gradualist and systematical approach, it can reach other readers as well and enable them to understand the EU’s legal framework for services of general economic interest.
(Imprint: Nova)

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


List of Acronyms

List of Cited Treaties with Protocols, and the Charter

List of Cited European Union Directives and Regulations

List of Cited Cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union

Chapter 1. European Union Law Toolkit: Selected Fundamental Principles and Concepts of European Union Law and their Impact on Public Services

Chapter 2. Setting the Scene: The Socio-Political Background of Public Services in the European Union and Beyond

Chapter 3. The European Union’s Legal Framework for Services of General Economic Interest

About the Authors


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