Chapter 8: Services of general economic interest and state aid in EU law: the challenges for the Court of Justice after the ‘Almunia Package’
This chapter reviews the principal components of the ‘Almunia Package’ of December 2011, which is the European Commission’s latest expression of state aid policy with regard to the financing of public services. Following a detailed description of the package, several remaining open legal questions are highlighted. The Court of Justice is urged to provide clarity with regard to these issues going forward. When the issue at stake is that of public intervention in the economy, the problem of the scope and limits of judicial power raises the question of a fair balance between the powers of judges and those of the legislator and/or the executive. It is thus a problem of – lato sensu – democracy, judicial activism and the Welfare State. Moreover, when the actor vested with that balance is supranational, as is the case of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the issue becomes even more sensitive since its jurisprudence has a strong impact on the European as well as on the national ‘socio-economic constitution’. In this chapter I will deal with a specific form of public intervention in the economy, that is, the financing of services of general economic interest (SGEIs)or, to be more precise, economic services of general interest,as regulated and shaped by the EU institutions.
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