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A7-0239/2011

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P7_TA(2011)0319

REPORT     
PDF 349kWORD 240k
22 June 2011
PE 438.251v03-00 A7-0239/2011

on the future of social services of general interest

(2009/2222(INI))

Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

Rapporteur: Proinsias De Rossa

ERRATA/ADDENDA
AMENDMENTS
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 OPINION of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs
 OPINION of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection
 OPINION of the Committee on Regional Development
 OPINION of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the future of social services of general interest

(2009/2222(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Treaty on European Union, in particular Articles 2 and 3(3) thereof, and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in particular Articles 9, 14, 106, 151, 153(1)(j) and (k), 159, 160, 161 and 345 thereof, and Protocol 26 thereto,

–   having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 36 thereof,(1)

–   having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was concluded by the European Community on 26 November 2009(2),

–   having regard to Regulation No 1370/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and road(3),

–   having regard to Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market, in particular Article 1(3) thereof(4),

–   having regard to Decision No 1098/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 on the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (2010)(5),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Implementing the Community Lisbon programme: Social services of general interest in the European Union’ (COM (2006) 177 final) and the accompanying Commission staff working document on social services of general interest in the European Union (SEC(2006)0516),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Services of general interest, including social services of general interest: a new European commitment’ (COM(2007)0725),

–   having regard to the Commission staff working documents entitled ‘Frequently asked questions in relation with Commission Decision of 28 November 2005 on the application of Article 86(2) of the EC Treaty to State aid in the form of public service compensation granted to undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest, and of the Community Framework for State aid in the form of public service compensation’ (SEC(2007)1516) and ‘Frequently asked questions concerning the application of public procurement rules to social services of general interest’ (SEC(2007)1514),

–   having regard to the Commission staff working document entitled 'Guide to the application of the European Union rules on state aid, public procurement and the internal market to services of general economic interest, and in particular to social services of general interest' (SEC(2010)1545),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020) and to its resolution of 16 June 2010 on that communication(6),

–   having regard to the Commission’s first ‘Biennial Report on social services of general interest’ (SEC(2008)2179) and its second ‘Biennial Report on social services of general interest’ (SEC(2010)1284)(7),

–   having regard to the Commission recommendation of 3 October 2008 on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market (C(2008))5737)(8),

-    having regard to the Commission communication on the taxation of the financial sector (COM(2010)0549), as well as the accompanying staff working document (SEC(2010)1166),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards a Single Market Act for a highly competitive social market economy’ (COM(2010)0608),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards a better functioning Single Market for services – building on the results of the mutual evaluation process of the Services Directive’ (COM(2011)0020) and to the accompanying Commission staff working paper (SEC(2011)0102) on the process of mutual evaluation of the Services Directive,

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Annual Growth Survey: advancing the EU’s comprehensive response to the crisis’ (COM(2011)0011 final),

–   having regard to Commissioner Andor’s statement on the social provisions of the Lisbon Treaty(9),

–   having regard to the Monti report of 9 May 2010 on ‘A new strategy for the single market at the service of Europe’s economy and society’,(10)

–   having regard to the ‘Report on the application of Community rules to SSGI’ prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2008(11)

–   having regard to the report entitled ‘A voluntary European quality framework for social services’ prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2010,(12)

–   having regard to the ‘Joint report on social protection and social inclusion 2010’ prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2010,(13)

–   having regard to the report entitled ‘Assessment of the social dimension of the Europe 2020 Strategy’, prepared by the Social Protection Committee in 2011,

–   having regard to the conclusions and recommendations of the Forums on Social Services of General Interest held in Lisbon in September 2007, Paris in October 2008 and Brussels in October,(14)

–   having regard to the conclusions of the EPSCO Council meetings of 16 and 17 December 2008, 8 and 9 June 2009 and 6 and 7 December 2010,(15)

–   having regard to the following judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU):

– of 19 April 2007 in Case C-295/05 Tragsa,

– of 18 December 2007 in Case C-532/03 Commission v Ireland (Irish rescue services),

– of 13 November 2008 in Case C-324/07 Coditel Brabant,

– of 9 June 2009 in Case C-480/06 Commission v Germany (Stadtwerke Hamburg),

– of 10 September 2009 in Case C-206/08 Eurawasser,

– of 9 October 2009 in Case C-573/07 Sea s.r.l.,

– of 15 October 2009 in Case C-196/08 Acoset,

– of 15 October 2009 in Case C-275/08 Commission v Germany (Datenzentrale Baden-Württemberg),

– of 25 March 2010 in Case C-451/08 Helmut Müller,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 6 December 2006 on the Commission communication entitled ‘Implementing the Community Lisbon(16) programme: Social services of general interest in the European Union’,

–   having regard to its resolution of 6 September 2006 on a European Social Model for the future,(17)

–   having regard to its resolution of 27 September 2006 on the Commission white paper on services of general interest,(18)

–   having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2007 on social services of general interest in the European Union,(19)

–   having regard to its resolution of 9 October 2008 on promoting social inclusion and combating poverty, including child poverty, in the EU,(20)

–   having regard to its resolution of 19 February 2009 on Social Economy,(21)

–   having regard to its resolution of 6 May 2009 on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market,(22)

–   having regard to its resolution of 18 May 2010 on new developments in public procurement,(23)

–   having regard to Written Declaration 84/2010 on the establishment of European Statutes for mutual societies, associations and foundations,

–   having regard to the results of the Eurofound Quality of Life Surveys of 2003 and 2007,(24)

–   having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the Committee on Regional Development and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A7-0239/2011),

A. whereas Article 3 TEU affirms the Member States' objective as the constant improvement of living and working conditions, and the Union's aim as the well-being of its peoples, to be achieved through sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth, a highly competitive social market economy geared to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and aiming at full employment and social progress, protection and improvement of the environment, combating social exclusion, discrimination and inequalities in access to health care, promoting social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child,

B.  whereas Article 9 TFEU requires that, in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health,

C. whereas Article 14 of the TFEU and Protocol 26 thereto explicitly address services of general interest (SGI), which include social services of general interest (SSGI); and whereas it is confirmed that national, regional and local authorities have the essential role and wide discretion in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest (SGEI), and that the Treaties do not affect the competence of Member States to provide, commission and organise non-economic services of general interest (SGNEI),

D.  whereas access to services of general interest is a fundamental right included in the economic, social and cultural rights recognised in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,

E.  whereas the provision of universally available, high-quality, accessible and affordable SSGI within the meaning of the 2007 Commission communication on services of general interest can therefore be regarded as an essential pillar of the European social model and as the basis for a good quality of life and for the achievement of EU employment, social and economic objectives,

F.  whereas social services of general interest, and in particular access to services for the care of children, the elderly and other dependants, are essential for the equal participation of women and men in the labour market, education and training,

G. whereas gender segregation in social services, both sectoral and occupational, has a detrimental impact on working conditions and pay levels and whereas unpaid domestic work, child care and elderly care work are predominantly performed by women,

H. whereas the expansion of social services of general interest has been a driving force in drawing more women into the labour market,

I.   whereas Articles 4(2) and 5(3) TEU encompass subsidiarity at local level, give formal recognition to regional and local self-government and whereas Article 1 of Protocol 26 to the TFEU recognises the essential role and the wide discretion of national, regional and local authorities in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest tailored as closely as possible to the needs of the users,

Fundamental Rights and Universality

1.  Considers that SSGI, their users and their providers have a number of special characteristics in addition to the common characteristics of SGI; SSGI, as defined by Member States, encompass statutory and complementary social security schemes and universally available services provided directly to the person, aiming to enhance the quality of life of all; play a preventative, social cohesion and inclusion role and deliver on fundamental rights as proclaimed in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

2.  Recognises that, in the case of SSGI, there are two contrasting factors which have to be reconciled: on the one hand, the principle of subsidiarity, which upholds the national public authorities’ freedom to define, organise and finance SSGI as they see fit, in conjunction with the principle of proportionality, and, on the other hand, the responsibility incumbent on the Community and the Member States for their respective areas of competence under the Treaty;

3.  Urges the Member States to maintain the availability of accessible, affordable, high-quality social services as during the period of fast economic growth, and to guarantee non-discriminatory access to these services regardless of gender, income, race or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, sexual orientation or employment conditions; considers that social services are fundamental in ensuring gender equality as, together with health services and childcare facilities, they are one of the mainstays of efforts to increase female employment rates and equality in general;

4.  Insists on the need to prevent the current financial and economic crisis and future economic prospects from putting at risk the development of social services of general interest, as this would in the long term harm the growth of employment, economic growth in the EU, the increase in fiscal contributions and the promotion of equality between women and men;

5.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to conduct a gender-impact assessment of the various social services of general interest and to ensure that the assessment of proposed EU activities from a gender-equality perspective becomes a regular and transparent process with discernible results and that the gender perspective is included in the budget for all EU and national programmes and policies; also calls on the Commission to include in its monitoring reports the issue of gender equality;

6.  Calls on the Member States to ensure the availability, within policies geared to achieving a work-life balance, of accessible, affordable, good-quality, diversified forms of care services for children as described in the Barcelona objectives and to improve the provision of care services for elderly and dependent persons as an essential step towards equality between women and men, since childcare services not only facilitate participation by women in the labour market but also offer job opportunities; requests the Commission and Member States to take action for the recognition of unpaid household, child and elderly care providers, mostly women, who have a very important role for the sustainability of the social systems;

7.  Stresses that the general-interest nature of a social service does not depend on its field but on the way it is provided, in terms of a variety of factors such as non-profit status and non-selection of beneficiaries;

8.  Emphasises that, where SSGI are concerned, the subsidiarity principle must take precedence over internal market rules;

9.  Emphasises that, as a matter of principle, responsibility for decisions on designing, funding and delivering social services of general interest (SSGI) must lie with Member States and local authorities; respects and supports this principle and urges the European institutions also to espouse this position;

10. Stresses that, in order for SSGI to fulfil their role, access thereto cannot be only for disadvantaged and vulnerable people, but they must be universally accessible and independent of wealth or income, while ensuring equitable access for the most vulnerable people, in accordance with Member State laws and practice;

11. Stresses that the fundamentally structuring and inclusive character of SSGI contributes in a relevant, useful and effective way to the development of all regions by enabling the State and local or regional authorities to perform a role using public and private funding; considers that preserving them in rural and vulnerable regions is particularly important and stresses as well the vital role of SSGI in limiting risks of segregating fractured and marginalised communities;

12. Emphasises that SSGI are funded mainly by the Member States, as they fall primarily within their field of competence; considers nevertheless that the European Union can play an important role and assist Member States in their modernisation and adjustment to new conditions, and possibly give voice to citizens' requirements regarding the quality and scope of services;

13. Stresses the importance of conducting, as a matter of urgency, an assessment of the social consequences and impact on people’s lives of liberalisation measures in sectors that are essential to social progress (transport, energy, water, postal services, telecommunications, etc.) and urges the Commission to prevent any further liberalisation measures from being taken until this assessment has been submitted;

14. Stresses that it is important to reinforce the social dimension of the single market and to take better account of the special nature of SSGI, with emphasis on a pragmatic approach in which the accessibility, universality, fairness, quality and efficiency of such services are the prime considerations;

15. Endorses the recommendation in the Monti report that broadband internet and basic banking services be recognised in European law, as services which Member States may ensure, are universally available and accessible to all;

Economic contribution

16. While emphasising that SSGI must not be defined by their economic impact, notes the Commission’s second biennial report and confirms that SSGI make a major economic contribution in terms of jobs, economic activity and purchasing power and that the health and social services sector accounts for 5% of economic output and employs 21.4 million people; notes that the CEEP, in its report, ‘Mapping of Public Services,’ also confirmed that health and social activities account for 9.6 % of EU employment, and 9.4 % of GDP; notes that the 2008 Labour Force Survey shows that women account for 79 % of the workforce in health services, 81 % in residential care services and 83 % in non-residential care services; notes also that an SME representative body, UEAPME, takes the view that SMEs need high-quality, efficient SSGI in order to operate successfully; calls on the Member States also to take into account gender-equality principles; notes that the promotion of inclusive labour markets, prevention and rehabilitation will lead to cost savings and improve quality of delivery in the longer term;

17. Stresses that SSGI help to enable citizens to exercise their rights and are geared to ensuring social, territorial and economic cohesion through the implementation of various forms of solidarity;

18. Stresses that, regional and local authorities play a fundamental role in defining, financing, providing and attributing SSGI within the framework of Member States’ social service and social protection systems: it is estimated that the local and regional government sector is worth 15.9 % of EU-27 GDP, with local government alone accounting for 12.9 %, and its social protection expenditure accounting for 3 % of GDP (EUR 378.1 billion);

19. Believes that national, regional and local authorities should extend the application of Public-Private Partnerships in the area of SSGI in order to increase their efficiency and availability.

Social contribution

20. Points out that Eurofound Quality of Life Surveys(25)1 have verified that one of the most important ways of enhancing citizens’ quality of life, ensuring full inclusion in society and providing for social and territorial cohesion is through the provision and development of SGI including SSGI; stresses that SSGI are a key pillar of the European social model, being part of the way European societies are organised, and that their purpose is to achieve social policy objectives, making tangible the social rights of individuals and groups, often through Member State’s social security systems;

21. Highlights the need to review liberalisation policies in order to promote a policy of social progress, ensuring universal access to high-quality public services, with special consideration for disadvantaged groups, such as single mothers, women, elderly people, children, migrants and those with any kind of disability;

22. Stresses that it is inappropriate for public funds allocated to SSGI to be used otherwise than to fulfil the objectives of the service, and that no part of such funding, apart from reasonable staff and overhead costs incurred in service delivery, should be used for any other purpose; takes the view that the legitimate objective of profit maximisation which underlies private commercial provision of commercial services conflicts unacceptably with the principles and objectives of SSGI; is of the opinion that where Member State authorities choose to use indirect delivery of SSGI, the general interest must be protected, and that they should, while ensuring quality, innovation, efficiency and cost effectiveness, support social economy enterprises, where any surplus is reinvested in the service and in innovation, and encourage them to operate as providers;

23. Emphasises the traditional role of the state as provider of social services of general interest, yet considers that opening up this sector to private service providers will enhance the accessibility and quality of services and increase consumer choice;

24. Reaffirms its commitment to modern, high-quality SSGI, which are a means of giving effect to many of the values embodied in the European project, such as equality, solidarity, the rule of law and respect for human dignity, as well as to the principles of accessibility, universal service, efficiency, economical management of resources, continuity, proximity to service users and transparency;

Regulatory constraints on delivery of SSGI

25. Stresses that national, regional and local authorities engaged in providing or mandating SSGI need legal certainty for their services and expenditures, and that, while the information and clarification service and the recently published Commission guide are very welcome, they do not deliver the necessary legal certainty, which tends to inhibit SSGI providers in fulfilling their mission;

26. Stresses that national and local authorities are responsible for ensuring that SSGI operate properly and for maintaining a high standard of quality;

27. Considers that it is neither efficient nor democratically acceptable that current interpretation of legislation results in the ECJ being continually asked to adjudicate on the limits of single market rules with regard to SGI, including SSGI, which is a clear indication of the lack of legal certainty; points to the long-standing and ongoing stakeholder dialogue on this matter and calls on the Commission finally to take action;

Economic and budgetary policy

28. Emphasises that SSGI are an indispensable investment for Europe’s economic future, and that they are under severe pressure in some Member States as a result of the economic and banking crises and government austerity programmes, which are resulting in even greater demand for them; SSGI have been indispensable as automatic socio-economic stabilisers during these crises – notably via social security systems;

29. Stresses that the need for SSGI is steadily growing owing to the current climate of uncertainty over growth and jobs, while demographic change is giving rise to new needs; emphasises that the key challenge of the moment for the delivery of SSGI is maintaining their quality and scope and, given their importance and absolute necessity, that such services need to be enhanced in order to ensure they play their important role in achieving the EU 2020 social and economic targets for employment and poverty reduction;

30. Points out that the economic and financial crisis and the austerity policies imposed by Member States should not encourage disinvestment in SSGI but that, on the contrary, given their importance and absolutely essential nature, such services need to be consolidated in order to meet people’s needs;

31. Draws attention to the importance of ensuring that the national, regional and local authorities facilitate access to social housing for women in need or at risk of exclusion, and for women who have been the victims of gender violence, in both cases especially when they have dependent children;

32. Points to the need for greater recognition to be given to the work performed by people employed in the social services sector, the majority of whom are women, because their jobs are difficult, call for a caring attitude and great personal commitment and are not very socially prestigious;

33. Considers that the principle of solidarity and the strengthening of the European Union require that the crisis, with its growth in unemployment and poverty, must be addressed by greater efficiency and effectiveness of spending at EU and national levels, strengthening of structural funds and, in particular, the European Social Fund, and the application of new resources such as project bonds;

34. Believes that in order to guarantee delivery of high-quality SSGI, Member State governments need to provide for an adequate financial framework for SSGI, which guarantees continuity of services with stable financing, as well as decent working conditions and training for those employed or assisting in delivering the services;

35. Stresses, furthermore, that all transfers of competence for SSGI from Member States to local or regional authorities require the introduction of coordination arrangements, in order to avoid any disparities in the quality of the services provided in the various areas, and must go hand in hand with the transfer of the resources required to ensure the continued provision of high-quality universal services that can respond to the rights and needs of users in an effective manner;

36. Considers that, not least in order to maintain the delivery of quality SSGI, the Member States need new income, and calls on the Commission swiftly to produce a feasibility study based on the European Heads of State decision of 11 March 2011(26);

Deficiencies in the regulatory framework for SSGI

General

37. Believes there is a broad European consensus that SSGI are essential to the well-being of our peoples and an efficient economy and that while there has been some progress in addressing the difficulties that arise for providers in the delivery and development of SSGI from the application of EU rules to such services, there is no consensus so far within or between the Commission and the Council on the implementation of further practical measures to overcome the obstacles identified by stakeholders;

38. Underlines that the Treaties commit the EU and Member States to developing a social market economy and maintaining the European social model; emphasises that it is for Member States and local authorities freely to decide how SSGI are funded and delivered, whether directly or otherwise, using all available options, including alternatives to tendering, so as to ensure that their social objectives are achieved and are not hampered by the application of market rules to non-market services; stresses the need for a supportive environment that promotes quality, accessibility, affordability and efficiency in the delivery of the services, while facilitating the development by providers of a capacity for initiative that can enable them to anticipate public needs;

39. Emphasises that the quality of services must be based around regular and integrated consultation of users since services must first and foremost meet their needs;

40. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to respect the diversity of the methods of organising and managing SSGI, of their resources and of the methods of funding these services; calls on the Member States to reverse ‘reforms’ which have institutionalised market-based models of welfare provision, with competition and tendering obligations, and to cease promoting public-private partnerships or externalising social services to the private sector as these are misleading strategies for ‘modernising’ social services; considers that taking care to promote the general interest and ensure the provision of efficient and high-quality services by both the public sector and the not-for-profit 'third’ sector or the social economy is the most appropriate strategy for ensuring high-quality, integrated and inclusive social services;

41. Takes note of Written Declaration 84/2010 on the establishment of European statutes for mutual societies, associations and foundations and the need for greater recognition for social economy actors, including models such as cooperatives, which are active in the provision of SSGI and the organisation and functioning of the social economy, calls on the Commission to take the necessary steps, based on impact assessments at national and EU level, to introduce proposals for European statutes for associations, mutual societies and foundations, which would enable them to operate on a transnational basis;

State aid

42. Welcomes the review of state Aid which Commissioner Almunia has undertaken and calls for clarification of basic principles on the control of state aid to enhance legal certainty and transparency for clarity of concepts such as ‘act of entrustment’ and ‘public authorities’; for the introduction of differentiation in the rules; for calculating compensation of public service obligations, that should take account of, among other things, social criteria, the specific features of the service provider and a number of external considerations relating to the provision of services, such as social added value and community involvement;

43. Welcomes the Commission evaluation of the impact of the 2005 Monti-Kroes package; calls for the revision of that package so as to strengthen legal security, simplify the rules such as those on the control of over-compensation for operators of SSGI at local level and improve flexibility in their application, and consider expanding the list of derogations from notification in line with the examples of hospitals and social housing; calls on the Commission to reassess the appropriate level of the de minimis threshold applicable to SSGI and to propose a system which takes into account Member State GDP in calculating the de minimis threshold, so that a specific de minimis threshold can be calculated for each Member State, thus preventing distortions of competition caused by the existence of a uniform, EU-wide threshold; urges that control of over-compensation be used only if the risk of serious violation of competition is ascertained;

44. Points out that neither the sector, the status of an entity carrying out a service nor the way in which it is funded determines whether its activities are deemed economic or non-economic, but rather the nature of the activity itself and its preventive effect;

45. Recalls that the key issue is not to distinguish between economic and non-economic SGI, including SSGI, but rather to establish clearly the responsibility of public authorities, in procuring a service, to ensure that particular general interest tasks which have been assigned to undertakings entrusted with the operation of such services are carried out;

46. In the framework of current EU legislation, calls for clarification of the concepts and reform of the classification criteria used to differentiate between economic and non-economic SSGI, and for a common understanding of SGI with a view to ensuring that their intended aims can be achieved;

Procurement

47. Welcomes the latest consultation on the modernisation of EU public procurement rules aimed at both more efficient use of public money and the achievement of EU social and economic and environmental goals; emphasises that public procurement rules need to be simplified so that SGI obligations can be efficiently and effectively fulfilled; notes that tendering in the field of SSGI can be an acceptable means of selecting a provider, but emphasises that other transparent forms of provider selection may allow greater flexibility, personalisation of services and innovation, which are essential for the quality of social services; stresses that tendering should be developed in such a way as to reduce costs while maintaining quality;

48. Calls on the Commission to recognise alternatives to public procurement for the delivery of SGI, including SSGI, such as ‘in-house’ and ‘service concession’ methods, and explicitly accord equal legal value to all options for the contracting and financing of SSGI; calls for the expansion of the ‘in-house’ concept to include service providers who meet specific general interest criteria; calls furthermore for recognition of tried and tested Member State procedures based on the principle that all providers which are able to comply with the conditions laid down by law should be permitted to provide services, irrespective of their legal form, provided that account is taken of the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination and transparency laid down in primary law;

49. Supports the normative anchoring of a practical ‘in-house’ tendering option for SGI, including SSGI, based on the model of the revised Regulation 1370/2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and road, which would provide that any competent local authority may decide to provide services itself or to award public service contracts to a legally distinct entity over which the competent local authority exercises control similar to that exercised over its own department and must on no account prevent transparency in public tendering;

50. Believes that regional and local authorities, in consultation with civil society and the social partners, must be involved in the process of drawing up and evaluating procurement rules to avoid discrepancies between the rules and modes of organisation and actual practice on the ground; notes also that territorial cooperation between regions could help to clarify best practice;

51. Emphasises the ambiguity with regard to Member States’ right to insist upon social, environmental and quality criteria in public procurement tenders and contracts, and draws attention to the changes in the legal framework brought about by the Lisbon Treaty and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights; in the context of fair trade, the prevention of a race to the bottom and the delivery of quality services, calls for the extension of the concept of ‘most economically advantageous offer’ such that calls for tender and procurement contracts, as well as subcontracts for provision of SGI, including SSGI, would have to include the relevant Member State's national and/or local social, environmental and service quality criteria, which should be linked to best international practice; stresses that, in order to maintain standards, criteria for acceptance of tenders must not be based solely on price; urges that reforms take into account the specific status of not-for-profit and social economy providers;

52. Stresses that the organisation of SSGI in the Member States has come about through a process of historical development and is the outcome of different cultural traditions, so that it is neither possible nor desirable to create a one-size-fits-all European model, and instead a flexible approach should be adopted, which, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity, must have due regard for regional and local authorities’ right to local self-government and allow sufficient scope for specific developments in accordance with the differing organisational forms employed in the Member States;

Initiative to Advance Reform

53. Recognises the high value of mutual learning and good practice exchange in inspiring and promoting the further modernisation of SSGI in different Member States, and urges the Commission to continue proactively to initiate and support such activities with, and including training for, regional and local authorities in the application of EU rules to SSGI; stresses that the problems which SSGI providers and beneficiaries have identified need prompt solutions based on a pragmatic approach;

54. Urges that the Commission, as a follow-up to the 2007 communication on SGI and the current review of procurement and state aid rules, undertake a programme of reform, adaptation and clarification to support and recognise the specific non-market characteristics of SSGI, to ensure full conformity not only with single market provisions but also with the social obligations of the Treaties; considers that a compulsory framework for certain categories of SSGI needs to be explored;

55. Considers that an EU framework regulation on SGEI, permissible under Article 14 TFEU, is not the central issue at this time;

56. Considers that the Social Protection Committee has made and will continue to make an important contribution to the common understanding and role of SSGI; notes, however, that its Treaty mandate (Article 160 TFEU) specifies a purely advisory status and does not permit its membership to be broadened to include civil society, the European Parliament, the social partners or others;

57. Proposes the establishment of a high-level multi-stakeholder working group as recommended by the 3rd SSGI Forum, which is open, flexible and transparent, broadly representative of stakeholders and focused on achieving reforms such as the policy initiatives identified in this report and the opinions thereto, in the 3rd SSGI Forum recommendations, the Commission’s second Biennial Report and the SPC reports, as well as any other relevant proposals as they arise; proposes that the working group be co-chaired by the European Parliament and the Commissioner responsible for Social Affairs and comprise representatives of the Parliament, relevant Commissioners, the Council, the social partners and civil society organisations representing users and providers of SSGIs, the Committee of the Regions, local authorities and other relevant stakeholders,

     The working group could:

· consider the relative merits of establishing a European Observatory or Resource Centre for SSGI to collect information from various sources in the Member States and to enable the exchange of good SSGI practice at the national, regional and local level;

· seek to achieve broad consensus on steps to clarify legal obscurities and ambiguities regarding SSGI.

· evaluate whether European single market regulations which impact negatively on SSGI provision need to be redesigned so as to respect and support Member States’ responsibilities in the definition, funding and delivery of SSGI, taking account of the current Commission review of rules;

· carry out, with the assistance of the Social Protection Committee a comprehensive study concerning the functionality of SSGI;

· examine how the Member States, when defining social services of general interest, can take account of gender-specific services, especially advisory and social services particularly designed for women and important services that contribute to women's quality of life and equality, such as health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health services, education and the care of the elderly;

· promote innovations such as a Member State register of SSGI, a pilot scheme on elder care, and action programmes based on the European Voluntary Quality Framework;

· consider how Member States can develop forms of home help including support for elderly and vulnerable persons, by both men and women, and reduce the negative employment and pension impact on those who take care of dependent family members;

58. Calls for a 4th European Forum on SSGI, to continue the initiative of the 2007 Ferreira report and to review progress on reform; and for the proposed working group to submit a progress report to the 4th Forum, providing the Forum with continuity, direction and substance;

European Voluntary Quality Framework

59. Welcomes the VQF and insists that application of the principles should be applied and monitored using the proposed quality criteria, in an Open Method of Coordination process in which stakeholders must be included;

60. Welcomes the fact that the European Commission, in the Key Initiatives annexed to the Communication on European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, proposes to develop, at a sectoral level, the Voluntary European Quality Framework on social services, including in the field of long-term care and homelessness; recommends that it also address the areas of childcare, disability and social housing, and that it use equal opportunities as an indicator;

61. Invites the European Commission to clarify the link between the quality framework outlined in the VQF and the Prometheus Programme in order to avoid any duplication; urges Member States to use the VQF to draw up or improve existing monitoring and quality accreditation systems as appropriate for each Member State; takes the view that the functioning of the VQF should be evaluated by the Member States with reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Protocol 26 TFEU;

62. Emphasises that decent working conditions, for men and women, which are stable and compliant with Member State law and practice, coupled with regular quality training and the participation and empowerment of users, taking gender perspectives into account, are essential for the delivery of quality social services; stresses that volunteers have a valuable role to play in the SSGI sector, but that they cannot take the place of an adequate number of professionally trained specialists such as social workers and general staff;

63. Calls on the Member States to encourage employment creation and the growth potential of the social, health and education services sector by offering migrants and EU citizens decent working conditions and access to comprehensive social protection systems;

64. Considers that, among the tasks performed by social workers, particular importance should be given to activities aimed at increasing motivation to undertake work, education or economic activity with a view to becoming independent and self-sufficient;

65. Considers that the VQF principles could be used to help define service quality criteria for application to revised public procurement rules for tendering and contracts, including subcontracts;

66. Proposes that further improvement of the VQF should include reference to funding and service provider status;

67. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the parliaments and governments of the Member States and the candidate countries, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The world has changed since the Hasse Ferreira Report addressed Social Services of General Interest (SSGI) in 2007. Firstly, the light-regulation economic model diligently promoted by the Commission and the Council over many years spectacularly collapsed at the end of that year. Secondly, and more positively, there is the Lisbon Treaty’s new regulatory and policy environment for the support and development of SSGI. SSGI are essential social and economic pillars of our societies. Means must be found to fund them adequately. This report identifies possibilities to address the concerns of providers and users of SSGI in a progressive and decisive manner. In particular, it is crucial to establish a dedicated and bottom-up official body involving all stakeholders to identify and implement the necessary reforms.

The Economic Crisis

There have been enormous economic and social costs of collapse including economic stagnation, large increases in unemployment and poverty. In some cases Member State debt and budget deficits have reached crisis levels through the socialisation of private bank debt. The budgetary pressures generated by this situation are putting enormous strain on funding of SSGI and are additional to the pressures on these services arising from the neo-liberal economic model, which regards such services as optional extras. This has heightened the longstanding concerns of SSGI providers and of citizens, regarding restrictions imposed by Commission interpretations of the Treaties, on how SSGI are funded and delivered.

Current Council and Commission policy is to emphasise fiscal consolidation - the restoration of the debt and budget deficit criteria of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) even though the crisis has revealed the totally inadequate nature of the SGP as a measure of economic health. The debate about how to address these problems is also about how we save the European Social Model from fatal damage. Finding the right combination for each member state of expenditure on SGI, taxation, and stimulus to help our economies to grow in a sustainable way, thereby making it possible to reduce debt and deficits to manageable proportions in a reasonable timeframe, have been abandoned in favour of a blindly ideological agenda. The critical role that SSGI can play at this time as both safety net and growth boosters is so far largely ignored.

The Lisbon Treaty

However, the Lisbon Treaty’s new regulatory and policy potential, if used intelligently, could help renew this essential ingredient of our European Social Model. The response to the crisis could be an opportunity for a renewed political commitment to the social and economic role of universal SSGI.

The Treaty provisions (Article 3.3 of the TUE and 9 of the TFEU) empower us to develop a modern Social Market Economy. Article 14 TFEU acknowledges that Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) are an intrinsic part of Europe's social model. Protocol 26 states clearly the responsibilities of Member States in the delivery of such services, while the European Charter of Fundamental Rights recognises the right of citizens to access SGEI.

This report identifies possibilities to address the concerns of providers and users of SSGI in a progressive and decisive manner. It identifies the legislation and policy that could be developed to ensure that Social Services of General Interest (SSGI), both economic and non-economic, can be enabled to play their normal role, while helping us to exit the crisis, and contributing to the achievement of the 2020 social and economic strategy, as recognised by the European Council for Social Affairs in December 2010,

SSGI Social Role

Social Services of General Interest (SSGI) are subdivisions of Services of General Interest (SGI) and under prevailing interpretations are sometimes, wrongly categorised as ‘economic’ services. SSGI and their users have a number of special characteristics in addition to the common characteristics of SGI. SSGI encompass, in addition to health services, both statutory and complementary universally available services, provided directly to the person, that play a preventative and social cohesion and inclusion role and make tangible fundamental social rights.

High quality universal services such as health, education and childcare, and essential network services such as transport, energy and telecommunications, ensure a healthy, active, cohesive and inclusive society, and are also essential for higher levels of labour market participation and for the development of a competitive, social market economy.

SSGI Economic role

SSGI as a whole make a very significant contribution in terms of jobs, economic activity and purchasing power in the economy. The Commission’s Second Biennial Report on SSGI indicates that Health & Social Services account for 5% of economic output and employ some 21.4 million.

The CEEP(27) estimates that providers of Services of General Interest (SGI) in the EU contribute directly 26% (EUR 2412 Billion) of EU GDP and employ 64 million people, one third of which are employed in the health and social services.

Eurofound Research has established in their Quality of Life Surveys(28), that one of the most important ways of enhancing the citizens' quality of life, ensuring full inclusion in society, and providing for social and territorial cohesion is the provision and development of SGI/SSGI, whether delivered by State Departments and Agencies, Local authorities, or by social economy enterprises and actors such as Mutual Associations, cooperatives, and voluntary organisations.

Funding

A Communautaire approach of solidarity, a greatly enhanced EU budget to assist the weaker economies, a greater role for the European Investment Bank, and a European debt agency to stabilise the cost of debt, would ensure a quicker recovery and strengthen the European Union at a time when there are growing centrifugal forces weakening the Union. A Europe-wide tax of no more than 0.5% on financial transactions, as agreed in the Berès Report, would raise EUR 200Bn per year.

INITIATIVE TO ADVANCE REFORM

Public Authorities engaged in the provision or mandating of SSGI need a clear legal foundation on which to base their services and expenditures. The information and clarification service developed by the Commission is essential for providers and the upgrading of those services is to be welcomed. But Commission clarifications have not removed legal uncertainty. The ECJ is faced with the task of adjudicating on these matters which should be clarified in legislation. This is not satisfactory from a democratic or efficient decision-making point of view.

Volunteer and social economy enterprises, with few resources or management structures, which are delivering SSGI, can be rendered insolvent due to the weight of the bureaucratic requirements of procurement and state-aid rules. This has the effect of limiting their capacity and the willingness of local authorities to use such organisations for service delivery and piloting innovative services.

The challenge is to delineate and provide a secure and flexible framework for SSGI, using all the instruments available to us, to ensure that the social objectives of the Union are supported rather than impeded by rules intended to regulate commercial enterprises.

In the Rapporteur’s view a reform package should include a Framework Regulation for SGEI1 using Article 14 TFEU to define services of general interest and delimit the impact of single market rules. The Regulation could distinguish between economic and non-economic SGI, and consolidate and clarify the general principles and common conditions for the successful operation of these services. However the political configuration of the Council and the Commission makes it unlikely that such legislative can be adopted in the near future, and solutions are required now.

This report outlines a Reform Programme which addresses the difficulties created by Procurement and State-Aid rules for delivery of SSGI, and other issues and makes proposals to achieve a flexible approach for national and local authorities in the funding and attributing of SSGI. Reforms should also address inter alia: The role of social economy enterprises and actors and volunteer organisations in the delivery of SSGI; Define as obligatory, compliance with national and local social and quality criteria in Procurement contracts, including where subcontractors are used; Address the issue of false self-employment in SSGI provision; An EU statute to enable Mutual Societies to operate on a transnational basis.

Multi-Stakeholder Taskforce

Most importantly an ambitious Reform Programme for SSGI needs an official framework dedicated to implementing the necessary reforms. This Report proposes the establishment of a ‘High Level Multi-Stakeholder Taskforce’, which is supported in the Recommendations of the 3rd Biennial Forum on SSGI. The Taskforce mandate would be to seek a broad consensus on the various proposals including those of the European Parliament, the Commission, the SPC, the Social Partners, and representative bodies of providers and users; identifying the policy and legal adaptations necessary to establish high quality standards and the legal certainty

___________________________

1 Socialist & Democrats Group Draft SGEI Regulation: proinsias.derossa@europarl.europa.eu.

necessary to ensure full realisation of the social and economic role which SSGI can play in European society. Its membership would consist of the aforementioned organisations and should be chaired by DG Social Affairs and membership should also include DG Competition, DG Single market, DG Environment, and DG Sanco. It would have an initial two year mandate, with the objective of making a progress report to a Fourth Biennial Forum on SSGI, which is also proposed by this report.

An additional idea, which deserves consideration by the proposed Task Force, comes from UNIOPSS1 which proposes a 'European Resource Centre for SSGI’. This could be a technical reference point between Member States, the Commission and Civil Society at EU level. It could promote an effective European legal framework, facilitate investment, exchange best practice, gather statistics and organise comparative studies. It could be consulted on any legislative initiative with an impact on SSGI. The Monti Report on ‘Completing the Single Market (2010)’ argues that SGI have an important role economically and socially and concludes there is a need for new universal right to broadband access and to banking services. These, along with existing concerns about the impact of single market legislation on SSGI, need to be legislated for.

European Voluntary Quality Standards

Access to high quality SSGI is a citizen's right. Considerable work has already been done on this issue including by civil society and we are quite close to adopting a Voluntary European Voluntary Quality Framework (VQF). But there are gaps in the VQF which this report seeks to have addressed. Fundamental to quality is: respect for human dignity and fundamental rights; services must be participative; must empower users to take decisions on their own; be holistic and continuous; be provided in partnership with communities and other actors; be provided by skilled professionals working in decent employment and working conditions; be managed in a transparent way and be accountable.

Conclusion

There are many other proposals from EPSU and the ETUC, and service providers such as CEEP, many local authority representative organisations and representative organisations from civil society such as Solidar, European Social Network, Social Platform, REVES, BAGFW, AIM, MEPLF, Eurodiaconia, CEDAG, REIF, and Eurocities. I have carefully considered all these views. All are drawn from their experience and deserve active and serious consideration in a structured and integrated manner, such as by the proposed Task Force.

The problems that providers and users have identified need urgent solutions, and in light of the economic and unemployment crisis our citizens have a greater need than ever for access to high quality Social Services of General Interest, while our economies and our society also needs the benefits which such services can deliver.

_________________________

1 UNIOPSS:http://www.uriopss-picardie.asso.fr/resources/trco/pdfs/2010/J_octobre_2010//57908EuropeaManifesto_SSGIoct2010.pdf.

(1)

OJ C 303, 14.12.2007, p.1.

(2)

OJ L 23, 27.1.2010, p. 35.

(3)

OJ L 315, 3.12.2007.

(4)

OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, pp.36 to 68.

(5)

OJ L 298, 07.11.2008, pp.20 to 29.

(6)

. Texts adopted, P7_TA-PROV(2010)0223.

(7)

. Commission staff working document accompanying COM(2008)0418 - Biennial Report on social services of general interest.

(8)

. OJ L 307, 18.11.2008, p.1.

(9)

. Plenary debates, Wednesday, 6 October 2010 - Brussels, item 13, Social provisions of the Lisbon

(10)

. Report to the President of the European Commission by Mario Monti, 9 May 2010.

(11)

. Council of the EU, 16062/08, ADD1, 20 November 2008.

(12)

. SPC/2010/10/8 final.

(13)

. Council of the EU 6500/10, 15 February 2010.

(14)

1st Forum on Social Services of General Interest, 17 September 2007, Lisbon, Portuguese Presidency, 2nd Forum on Social Services of General Interest (SSGI), 28 and 29 October 2008, French Presidency, 3rd Forum on Social Services of General Interest (SSGI), 26 and 27 October, Brussels, Belgian Presidency.

(15)

. Council of the EU 6624/11, SOC 135, ECOFIN 76, SAN 30 of 18 February 2011.

(16)

. Council meeting Brussels, 16 and 17 December 2008, Social Services of General Interest, p. 18.

(17)

. Opinion CdR 181/2006 fin on COM(2006)0177, OJ C 305E, 14.12.2006, p. 141..

(18)

. OJC 306E, 15.12.2006, p.277.

(19)

. OJC 301E, 13.12.2007, p.140.

(20)

. OJC 9E, 15.1.2010, p.11.

(21)

. OJC 76E, 25.3.2010, p.16.

(22)

Texts adopted, P6_TA(2009)0371.

(23)

. Texts adopted, P7_TA-PROV(2010)0173.

(24)

http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/surveys/eqls/2007/index.htm.

(25)

1Eurofound - Quality of Life Surveys http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef09108.htm.

(26)

. Conclusions of the Heads of State or Government of the euro area of 11 March 2011.

(27)

CEEP: Mapping of the Public services: http://www.ceep.eu/images/stories/pdf/Mapping/CEEP_mapping%20experts%20report.pdf.

(28)

Eurofound - Quality of Life Surveys http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef09108.htm.


OPINION of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (23.3.2011)

for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

on the future for social services of general interest

(2009/2222(INI))

Rapporteur: Sophie Auconie

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs calls on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1. Given that social services of general interest (SSGI) make a major contribution to the achievement of the EU's goals, as enshrined in the Treaties, particularly in terms of promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion, calls on the Commission to use the evaluation and revision of the Monti-Kroes package to continue its efforts to clarify and monitor the application of Community rules in the field of SSGI, using a tailored approach which can easily be applied by organising public authorities and takes into account the specific ways in which social services are organised, their legal status and their strongly local nature, as well as the responsibility of the Member States for organising and financing these services;

2. Stresses that the organisation of SSGI in the Member States has come about through a process of historical development and is the outcome of different cultural traditions, so that it is neither possible nor desirable to create a one-size-fits-all European model, and instead a flexible approach should be adopted, which, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity, must have due regard for regional and local authorities’ right to local self-government and allow sufficient scope for specific developments in accordance with the differing organisational forms employed in the Member States;

3. Considers that a single EU framework regulation on all services of general interest is not the proper instrument to establish legal certainty in this field;

4. Calls on the Commission to adopt an indicative document establishing a methodology for organising local authorities which sets out guidelines for applying European rules; considers it worthwhile, in this context, to provide more training for local authorities in order to eliminate legal uncertainty in procurement procedures;

5. Calls on the Commission to consider the advisability of putting forward a de minimis regulation specific to SSGI or to adjust the de minimis threshold for such services, in order to focus EU checks on State aid on social services likely to have a significant impact on cross-border trade within the EU;

6. Calls on the Commission to consider the advisability of extending the scope of the exemption of notification without thresholds to other SSGI sectors, in the light of the considerations that led to the current exemption of notification for hospital and social housing sectors and taking into account the fact that, at this stage of the development of the internal market, the intensity of the distortion of competition in these sectors is not necessarily proportional to revenues and the amount of compensation; calls on the Commission to exempt from the notification requirement subsidies granted under the terms of contracts concluded as a result of competitive tendering; taking into account the fact that existing alternatives to competitive tendering (in house, authorisation schemes, mandating, etc.) can be more readily tailored to the specific characteristics of SSGI;

7. Calls on the Commission to direct Member States to use competitive tendering only in the case of services for which genuine and natural market supply and demand exist, because competitive tendering for services for which there is no genuine and natural market gives rise to unnecessary costs and administrative burdens;

8. Calls on the Commission to clarify how the concepts of economic and non-economic activities and effects on trade are to be applied to SSGI and the specific arrangements for applying the concept of the 'level of compensation needed (...) on the basis of an analysis of the costs which a typical undertaking, well run and adequately provided with means of transport (...) would have incurred' (CJEU judgment in Case C-280/00, Altmark);

9. Stresses that the act of entrustment is a guarantee of transparency which has to be retained; asks the Commission to consider whether the rules governing entrustment and monitoring of overcompensation are appropriate to the characteristics of social services and to take action if they are deemed not to be; stresses that the scope for mandating (act of entrustment) should be enhanced, in particular by means of the more flexible application of the rules;

10. Given that SSGI are person-oriented services, and that they address the needs of the most disadvantaged people in society, thus enabling individuals to play a significant part in economic and social life (Council conclusions of 6/7 December 2010), takes the view that basic banking services should be regarded as services of general economic interest and made subject to universal service obligations in order to guarantee accessibility, affordability, transparency and a high degree of quality;

11. Asks the Commission to put forward legislative proposals concerning project bonds with a view to guaranteeing long-term and affordable financing for EU-relevant and sustainable services of general economic interest, particularly in the fields of social housing (as regards energy efficiency in building renovation) and the renovation of public buildings;

12. Stresses that calculations of compensation should not be performed exclusively on the basis of economic and financial criteria, but should also take account of social criteria;

13. Looks forward to the results of the evaluation of the Monti-Kroes package, which will demonstrate if and where further adjustment is needed.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

16.3.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

26

6

1

Members present for the final vote

Burkhard Balz, Sharon Bowles, Udo Bullmann, Pascal Canfin, Nikolaos Chountis, George Sabin Cutaş, Leonardo Domenici, Derk Jan Eppink, Diogo Feio, Vicky Ford, Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz, José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil, Jean-Paul Gauzès, Sven Giegold, Sylvie Goulard, Liem Hoang Ngoc, Wolf Klinz, Philippe Lamberts, Astrid Lulling, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, Ivari Padar, Antolín Sánchez Presedo, Edward Scicluna, Peter Simon, Peter Skinner, Theodor Dumitru Stolojan, Ivo Strejček, Marianne Thyssen, Corien Wortmann-Kool

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Sophie Auconie, Elena Băsescu, Saïd El Khadraoui, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Olle Ludvigsson, Thomas Mann, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Catherine Stihler


OPINION of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (22.3.2011)

for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

on the future for social services of general interest

(2009/2222(INI))

Rapporteur: Damien Abad

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection calls on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1.  Considers that social services of general interest (SSGI) play a comprehensive role in implementation of the principles set out in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Articles 9 and 14 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), particularly with regard to the development of a highly competitive social market economy and the promotion of economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union;

2.  Stresses here that it is important to reinforce the social dimension of the single market and take better account of the special nature of SSGI, with emphasis on a pragmatic approach in which the accessibility, universality, fairness, quality and efficiency of such services are the prime considerations;

3.  Draws attention to the range of public-service models in Europe and the fact that observance of the principle of subsidiary should be at the centre of further considerations in the discussions aimed at clarifying the link between the European level and local, regional and national levels;

4.  Reiterates the fact that SSGI are constantly evolving in response to new economic, social, institutional and technological developments; calls on the Commission and the Member States to continue the process of modernising the infrastructure, the organisation and the financing of services of general interest in light of constant changes in the internal market and the essential needs of European citizens;

Promoting the political importance of SSGI

5.  Considers that, given the place these services have in Europe, especially against a background of economic crisis, the EU should recognise their importance; asks the Commission, therefore, to explore whether a European social services observatory, if set up, would be a suitable tool for collecting information from various sources in the Member States and promoting good practice at European, national, regional and local level;

6.  Calls also on the Commission to update the SSGI questions and answers website, and to draw up a methodology which is better adapted to authorities running public services and to operators and is comprehensible, directly applicable and accessible in all the EU official languages;

7.  Stresses the interest, for a better understanding of common concepts regarding the quality of SSGI, of the voluntary European quality framework for social services adopted in 2010 by the Social Protection Committee; wishes to see a definition of the common coordination instruments, with a view to optimising the use of this voluntary framework and exchanging best practices with the aim of determining comparable quality indicators;

8.  Calls on the Commission to continue its efforts to identify the specific characteristics of SSGI and to find a common accepted definition of services of general interest, while fully respecting the responsibilities of the Member States and taking into account the distinctive and individual ways in which these services are tailored across Europe;

Taking into account the economic dimension of social services

9.  Draws attention to the substantial proportion of total employment in the EU, and of public financing in the Member States, that is accounted for by SSGI; believes that, against a background of economic and budgetary crisis, a balanced approach needs to be adopted, based on preserving the continuity and quality of social services and making them more efficient;

10. Considers, therefore, that discussion is required, firstly, on clarifying concepts and especially the notion of mandating, and on the relationship between necessary compliance with public procurement rules and SSGI, particularly with regard to new management approaches such as in-house procurement and cooperation between local authorities, and secondly, on an increased emphasis on quality criteria in the tender selection process, ensuring that SMEs and other organisations participate on an equal footing;

11. Draws attention, in this context, to the rules regulating competition for service providers and recalls the general principles of the Treaty (non discrimination, equality of treatment, proportionality) to ensure fair competition between public and private businesses providing SSGI;

Determining a framework for SSGI

12. Emphasises the need to clarify the legal uncertainties affecting SSGI; welcomes the updating of the Commission’s guide on the application of EU state aid, public procurement and single market rules to SSGI but recalls that this is not sufficient, as the rules raise problems for numerous players; calls on the Commission to simplify these rules;

13. Notes the proposals made in the Monti report, especially those concerned with the application of Article 14 TFEU and Protocol No 26; considers it essential to move forward with a pragmatic approach enabling the real problems, and potential solutions to them, to be identified; calls on the Commission, in association with Parliament and the Council, to carry out in-depth research into the functioning of a SSGI sector such as that of services to the elderly, which will have a major role to play as the EU will face substantial demographic changes in the near future;

14. Asks Member States to ensure that the quality requirements are met by public and private businesses providing SSGI; calls on the Commission to gather information on national quality requirements in addition to information on good practices in Member States;

15. Welcomes the Commission’s initiative to improve transparency and awareness in the field of state aid, public procurement, public-private partnerships and concessions by developing communication tools in the field of social services; points out, however, that a number of issues are still pending and rules need to be adapted accordingly to the needs of local authorities and small providers, and therefore the Commission should continue to provide a clear legal foundation and information on the application of EU rules, with the aim that services of general interest are capable of fulfilling their mission and contribute to a better quality of life for European citizens;

16. Draws attention to the range of public-service models in Europe and the fact that observance of the principle of subsidiarity is therefore a further consideration which should inform discussions aimed at clarifying the link between the European level and local and national levels;

17. Stresses the importance of closer cooperation between providers and stakeholders in the context of SSGI, and of greater user involvement with a view to improving the definition of expectations and improving quality;

18. Points out that a wide range of social services have been excluded from the scope of the Directive on Services in the internal market; hopes the Commission will soon draw up a balance sheet concerning the transposition of those exclusion measures.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

22.3.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

34

2

0

Members present for the final vote

Pablo Arias Echeverría, Adam Bielan, Cristian Silviu Buşoi, Lara Comi, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, António Fernando Correia De Campos, Jürgen Creutzmann, Christian Engström, Evelyne Gebhardt, Iliana Ivanova, Philippe Juvin, Sandra Kalniete, Eija-Riitta Korhola, Edvard Kožušník, Kurt Lechner, Toine Manders, Gianni Pittella, Mitro Repo, Zuzana Roithová, Heide Rühle, Matteo Salvini, Christel Schaldemose, Andreas Schwab, Catherine Stihler, Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, Bernadette Vergnaud, Barbara Weiler

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Damien Abad, Cornelis de Jong, Ashley Fox, Constance Le Grip, Pier Antonio Panzeri, Antonyia Parvanova, Sylvana Rapti, Amalia Sartori

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Michael Gahler


OPINION of the Committee on Regional Development (13.4.2011)

for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

on the future of social services of general interest

(2009/2222(INI))

Rapporteur: Luís Paulo Alves

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Regional Development calls on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

A. whereas Article 3(3) TEU provides for the development of the EU on the basis of a social market economy, while Article 14 TEU and Protocol 26 to the same treaty recognise that services of general interest are an integral part of the European social model, with Parliament and the Council being responsible, albeit without prejudice to the competences of the national, regional and local authorities, for defining the principles and conditions,

B.  whereas social services of general interest (SSGI), and their quality and efficiency, are essential for the achievement of the objectives of the EU's 2020 strategy, and have positive effects in terms of economic growth, employment and social and territorial cohesion,

1.  Recalls that the diversity of models of SSGI among Member States needs to be respected in line with the principle of subsidiarity; advocates the dissemination and exchange of best practice and know-how from those Member States and regions with most experience in providing services in the domain of SSGI, as a crucial means for their future development;

2.  Draws attention to the crucial role of regional and local authorities in providing social services, and recalls the need to take account of their opinions in the definition by Member States of such services;

3.  Calls on Member States, especially at a time when the citizens are resorting even more to SSGI owing to the severe economic crisis, to ensure that the decentralisation of power to regional or local authorities is accompanied by sufficient budgetary resources;

4.   Stresses that the fundamentally structuring and inclusive character of SSGI contributes in a relevant, useful and effective way to the development of all regions by enabling the State and local or regional authorities to perform a role using public and private funding; considers that preserving them in rural and vulnerable regions is particularly important and stresses as well the vital role of SSGI in limiting risks of segregating fragilised and marginalised communities;

5.  Stresses that SSGI also cover non-economic activities which are not and should not be subject to the rules of the internal market and which contribute to the objective of territorial cohesion of the European Union;

6.  Urges the Commission to act in response to the need for legal certainty for providers and organisers of SSGI within the existing legal framework by taking advantage of the current revision of the Monti-Kroes package to develop made-to-measure solutions for social services; asks the Commission to make available to public authorities a methodology specifying how to correctly apply European Union rules;

7.   Calls on the Commission to study the feasibility of territorial cooperation with regard to SSGI to eliminate in due course any obstacles arising from financing rules;

8.  Favours implementing a Voluntary European Quality Framework for SSGI;

9.   Believes that national, regional and local authorities should extend the application of Public-Private Partnerships in the area of SSGI in order to increase their efficiency and availability.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

12.4.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

37

4

0

Members present for the final vote

François Alfonsi, Luís Paulo Alves, Catherine Bearder, Jean-Paul Besset, Victor Boştinaru, Alain Cadec, Tamás Deutsch, Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, Elie Hoarau, Danuta Maria Hübner, Juozas Imbrasas, María Irigoyen Pérez, Seán Kelly, Evgeni Kirilov, Constanze Angela Krehl, Jacek Olgierd Kurski, Petru Constantin Luhan, Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska, Ramona Nicole Mănescu, Riikka Manner, Iosif Matula, Erminia Mazzoni, Miroslav Mikolášik, Lambert van Nistelrooij, Jan Olbrycht, Wojciech Michał Olejniczak, Markus Pieper, Monika Smolková, Georgios Stavrakakis, Nuno Teixeira, Oldřich Vlasák, Kerstin Westphal, Hermann Winkler, Joachim Zeller

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Karima Delli, Richard Falbr, Marek Henryk Migalski, Elisabeth Schroedter, Patrice Tirolien, Derek Vaughan, Sabine Verheyen


OPINION of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (26.4.2011)

for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

on the future for social services of general interest

(2009/2222(INI))

Rapporteur for the opinion: Siiri Oviir

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality calls on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

A. whereas social services of general interest (SSGIs) play an essential role in combating social exclusion and discrimination, protecting human rights and human dignity, and promoting social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations, protection of the rights of the child, the balancing of private and professional life and the achievement of economic, social and regional cohesion,

B.  whereas gender segregation in social services, both sectoral and occupational, has a detrimental impact on working conditions and pay levels and whereas unpaid domestic work, child care and elderly care work are predominantly performed by women,

C. whereas social services of general interest, and in particular access to services for the care of children, the elderly and other dependants, are essential for the equal participation of women and men in the labour market, education and training,

D. whereas the expansion of social services of general interest has been a driving force in drawing more women into the labour market,

1.  Urges the Member States to maintain the availability of accessible, affordable, high-quality social services as during the period of fast economic growth, and to guarantee non-discriminatory access to these services regardless of gender, income, race or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, sexual orientation or employment conditions; considers that social services are fundamental in ensuring gender equality as, together with health services and childcare facilities, they are one of the mainstays of efforts to increase female employment rates and equality in general;

2.  Insists on the need to prevent the current financial and economic crisis and future economic prospects from putting at risk the development of social services of general interest, as this would in the long term harm the growth of employment, economic growth in the EU, the increase in fiscal contributions, the rise in birth-rates and the promotion of equality between women and men;

3.  Points out that the expansion of social SGI has been a driving force in drawing more women into the labour force, refers to the 2008 Labour Force survey showing that 79% of the workforce in the human health services, 81% in residential care services and 83% in non-residential social work were women;

4.  Calls on the Member States to establish modern proactive welfare strategies to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of social spending, also taking into account gender-equality principles; notes that these policies, including the promotion of inclusive labour markets, prevention and rehabilitation, may require more funds initially, but should lead to cost savings and improve the quality of delivery in the longer term;

5.  Calls, with a view to tailoring services as closely as possible to the individual needs of users and improving service quality, for greater attention to be paid to the need for training and preparatory courses for people working with particularly vulnerable groups, such as children, problem youths and elderly people;

6.  Underlines the fact that it is essential to promote stronger user-orientation and user-empowerment, to take account of the gender perspective and to enhance access to social rights, particularly for disadvantaged groups, including single mothers, disabled women, women who have been victims of gender violence, immigrant women, women belonging to minorities, women with few qualifications and elderly women, since these groups are especially vulnerable to, and run a greater risk of, poverty in a context where the need for services is becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex; calls on the Commission to ensure and safeguard universal access to health care and social services and propose effective strategies to combat multiple discrimination;

7.  Recommends the Member States, when defining social services of general interest, to take account of gender-specific services, especially advisory and social services particularly designed for women, and important services that contribute to women’s quality of life and to equality, such as health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health services, education and the care of the elderly;

8.  Requests that the Commission use the promotion of equal opportunities as an indicator in assessing the performance of social services of general interest;

9.  Points out that the economic and financial crisis and the austerity policies imposed by Member States should not encourage disinvestment in SSGIs, but that, on the contrary, given their importance, such services need to be further consolidated in order to meet women’s needs;

10. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to conduct a gender-impact assessment of the various social services of general interest and to ensure that the assessment of proposed EU activities from a gender-equality perspective becomes a regular and transparent process with discernible results and that the gender perspective is included in the budget for all EU and national programmes and policies; also calls on the Commission to include in its monitoring reports the issue of gender equality;

11. Calls on the Member States to ensure the availability, within policies geared to achieving a work-life balance, of accessible, affordable, good-quality, diversified forms of care services for children as described in the Barcelona objectives and to improve the provision of care services for elderly and dependent persons as an essential step towards equality between women and men, since childcare services not only facilitate participation by women in the labour market but also offer job opportunities; requests the Commission and Member States to take action for the recognition of unpaid household, child and elderly care providers, mostly women, who have a very important role for the sustainability of the social systems;

12. Notes that, due to demographic change, care, health and social services in general are a growth sector that has potential to create jobs for both women and men; calls on the Member States to tap this potential by strengthening these underpaid and undervalued sectors where women are over-represented, by improving wages, infrastructures and professional training;

13. Calls on the Member States to promote agreements between the social partners on work-life balance policies and corporate and territorial welfare initiatives, with due regard for the positive measures taken on a contractual basis in recent years and experiments financed by the European Social Fund;

14. Draws attention to the importance of ensuring that the national, regional and local authorities facilitate access to social housing for women in need or at risk of exclusion, and for women who have been the victims of gender violence, in both cases especially when they have dependent children;

15. Calls on the Commission to take an active part in efforts to achieve the objective of framing and adopting a set of rules agreed by the social partners at EU level aimed at upholding fundamental rights as regards equal opportunities and extending gender-related legal guarantees to cover pay and working conditions, access to life-work balancing measures, training, career development and safety;

16. Points out that it is vital to safeguard the access of the most vulnerable groups of women to training and employment services in order to secure their financial independence and full inclusion in society;

17. Notes that, in order to avoid difficulties in attracting qualified employees, staff shortages and a decline in the quality of social services of general interest in future, Member States should pay more attention to the issue of decent pay for people working in health and social services; points out that it is precisely these sectors in which the largest number of jobs, particularly for women, have been created in recent times;

18. Points to the need for greater recognition to be given to the work performed by people employed in the social services sector, the majority of whom are women, because their jobs are difficult, call for a caring attitude and great personal commitment and are not very socially prestigious;

19. Calls on the Member States to encourage, including by means of tax incentives and specific financial aid, forms of home help and support for elderly and vulnerable persons – especially women – and to reduce the negative impact on the employment of relatives, in particular women, who take care of dependent family members.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

20.4.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

26

0

3

Members present for the final vote

Regina Bastos, Edit Bauer, Emine Bozkurt, Andrea Češková, Marije Cornelissen, Silvia Costa, Edite Estrela, Ilda Figueiredo, Zita Gurmai, Mary Honeyball, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, Constance Le Grip, Barbara Matera, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Angelika Niebler, Siiri Oviir, Antonyia Parvanova, Raül Romeva i Rueda, Nicole Sinclaire, Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska, Eva-Britt Svensson, Marc Tarabella, Marina Yannakoudakis, Anna Záborská

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Anne Delvaux, Christa Klaß, Katarína Neveďalová, Rovana Plumb


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

6.6.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

36

8

2

Members present for the final vote

Regina Bastos, Edit Bauer, Heinz K. Becker, Mara Bizzotto, Philippe Boulland, Milan Cabrnoch, David Casa, Alejandro Cercas, Ole Christensen, Karima Delli, Proinsias De Rossa, Frank Engel, Sari Essayah, Thomas Händel, Marian Harkin, Martin Kastler, Ádám Kósa, Jean Lambert, Patrick Le Hyaric, Veronica Lope Fontagné, Elizabeth Lynne, Thomas Mann, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Csaba Őry, Rovana Plumb, Konstantinos Poupakis, Sylvana Rapti, Licia Ronzulli, Elisabeth Schroedter, Jutta Steinruck

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Georges Bach, Raffaele Baldassarre, Françoise Castex, Silvia Costa, Julie Girling, Kinga Göncz, Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto, Richard Howitt, Jelko Kacin, Jan Kozłowski, Gesine Meissner, Antigoni Papadopoulou, Evelyn Regner, Claude Turmes, Cecilia Wikström

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

John Stuart Agnew

Last updated: 23 June 2011Legal notice