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Telecommunications policies in Europe: past, present, future and impact on citizens

Evaluating Privatisation, Regulation and Liberalisation in the EU

Serena Marianna Drufuca, Regina Maria Hirsch, Manto Lampropoulou and Rogelio Pesqueira Sánchez

The telecommunications sector over the last decades has gone through a long reform process, which has introduced elements of competition in a market characterized by a natural monopoly configuration and State control due to its network structure. This chapter aims to give a snapshot of the reform paths at the EU level and the level of individual Member States. Similar to other sectors of general economic interest, the process of European integration has been a strong driver in these policy reforms. Despite cross-country differences, the privatization and liberalization processes have brought developments for the whole sector in terms of more consumer choice, lower prices and better quality of service.

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The Reform of Network Industries

Evaluating Privatisation, Regulation and Liberalisation in the EU

Edited by Massimo Florio

Network industries such as electricity, gas, rail, local public transport, telecommunications and postal services are recognised by the EU as crucial for fostering European social and territorial cohesion. Providing an overview of key policy reforms in these industries and an empirical evaluation, this thought-provoking book offers a critical perspective on the functioning of the networks that provide vital services to EU citizens.
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Johan Willner and Sonja Grönblom

Public ownership is a way to provide goods and services where market performance is not satisfactory, or when the economy would otherwise be stagnant. This chapter provides a brief review of the existing theoretical and empirical literature and suggestions for further research. While far from exhaustive, our overview suggests that there is no unanimous body of research showing that the costs of public ownership overshadow its benefits. More research is needed on different forms of ownership, and we emphasise potential intrinsic motivation under private and public ownership as well as their impact on quality and on the constraints imposed by international competition. We also suggest research on renationalisation through buyer power and on the significance of governance quality.

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Preface

Evaluating Privatisation, Regulation and Liberalisation in the EU

Edited by Massimo Florio

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Paolo Castelnovo

This chapter provides an overview of the major State-invested enterprises (SIEs) operating in the European telecommunications industry; it describes their features and empirically investigates the potential differences in performance compared to private enterprises. Balance sheet and ownership data from 2006–14 are extracted from the Orbis Database. Descriptive statistics reveal that modern SIEs are not significantly different in size from private companies but have achieved a significantly higher profitability. This finding is confirmed by an econometric analysis accounting for firm- and country-level characteristics, regulatory constraints in the telecommunication industry and time fixed-effects. Regression results show that, even when controlling for the full set of covariates, SIEs display higher margins than their private counterparts. Additional relevant determinants of firms’ profitability are the probability of being listed on the stock exchange and market regulation, described by the ETCR aggregate indicator for the telecom sector.

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Philippe Bance

The opening up to competition promoted by the European Union and the decrease of the traditional mail activity have brought profound changes in the postal sector. The purpose of this chapter is to analyse, within this new environment, the transformation of operators’ ownership and behaviour and also of the public service obligation assigned to operators by national authorities. In this sector comprises a great diversity of strategies and a variety of conceptions on the part of national public authorities, characterising the coexistence in Europe of multiple models.

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Market structure and state involvement: passenger railways in Europe

Evaluating Privatisation, Regulation and Liberalisation in the EU

Torben Holvad

Over the past 25 years railways in Europe have experienced substantial changes in terms of legislative measures to strengthen the competitiveness of the sector. This chapter provides an overview of the different reform measures and the outcomes to date with particular emphasis on the issues linked to passenger transportation. In particular, the chapter is structured as follows. Firstly, the background to the reform initiatives is outlined. Secondly, the specific reform elements are described. Thirdly, the implementation of the reform measures at the country level is examined in order to identify variation between EU Member States. Subsequently, the outcomes are examined in terms of market structure, competition and state involvement as well as how the reforms have impacted the overall performance of the railway sector. Finally, the chapter puts forward future perspectives in terms of how the railways in Europe will develop over the coming years.

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Steve Thomas and Stefano Clò

This chapter analyzes how the European energy industry has been reformed in the last decades. We describe the structure of the industry prior to and after its reform; the nature of the four businesses; the progress in creating a competitive generation and retail markets; the change in ownership and corporate governance of the incumbent companies; and how they have responded to market reforms. We finally discuss the impact of these reforms on market performance, prices and social well-being in general.

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Annalisa Negrelli, Anastasia Roukouni and Angélique Chassy

In many EU countries, notwithstanding the privatisation policies, a large part of the supply of Local Public Transport (LPT) services is delivered by State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs); only a minority is covered by private operators or by mixed forms of public-private ones. There is a noteworthy variety in the LPT services organization among countries. Considerable differences are met even among cities within the same country. In this perspective, the quality of institutions is a factor that could assume a relevant impact on the internal policies and so, it could explain the differences in selecting among public, private or mixed private-public operators. In this context, the objective of the research is to critically examine how the main policy reforms – promoted by the EU and adopted by the Member States in the last two decades – have affected and continue to affect the market of public transport services. Starting from an empirical survey on the different experiences of the EU countries, the aim of the chapter is to investigate the theoretical inference of the collected data, analysing main juridical and socio-economic issues. What is the degree of market opening in the sector of LPT in some main European cities/municipalities? Which are the most efficient and progressive examples? Considering the degree of market opening, how could the juridical instruments adopted in the EU be a tool to compel the internal markets not open to competition? In other words, could the EU policies be a sort of ‘fly-wheel’, due to induce a virtuous circle that also entails single internal markets?

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Roberto Cardinale

This chapter analyses how the transition from state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to mixed-owned enterprises (MOEs) in the European gas sector affected the European states’ ability to pursue public policy objectives. More specifically, the analysis focuses on the extent to which public and private interests can be reconciled within MOEs’ strategy. The chapter suggests that the rise of profitability as the central objective for MOEs has prevented states from pursuing some, though not all, of the policy objectives that they could pursue before the transition. For example, states can no longer pursue large-scale plans of economic and technological development through MOEs, or ensure consumers’ price affordability irrespective of market fluctuations. However, states may still be able to positively contribute to energy security thanks to the major shares held in MOEs, for instance by vetoing divestment from import infrastructure. The analysis suggests the need for states to devise alternative ways to pursue their objectives in the framework of national and European energy policy.