Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Geraint Howells, Iain Ramsay, Thomas Wihelmsson and David Kraft
Peter Rott and Chris Willett 1. The notion of services of general interest and its uncertainties There has long been a general idea within different legal systems that certain facilities and services are of particular importance to the public, which means that the public has some special interest1 in these being available and easily accessible and possibly in other issues such as the affordability and quality of these services. Views as to which services fall into this category may differ from country to country; as will views as to the way in which those services regarded as falling into this category should be provided (private or public or some mix), the precise values thought to be important and the way in which these values should be guaranteed in law. Beginning with what facilities fall into this category we find, for example, in EC law, the notion of services of ‘general interest’. First of all at the basic level of terminology, the EC Commission chose this term intentionally in order to avoid associations with terms such as public service,2 service publique, servizio pubblico or Daseinsvorsorge that are used at the national level, but represent a variety of different concepts.3 In other words, the idea was to have an autonomous EC concept that was neutral in relation to national tradition. The omission of any reference to ‘public’ also clarifies that it is irrelevant whether the provider is a public entity or a private enterprise.4 Services of general interest have been a...
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