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Public Services





Public services fulfil certain functions which are crucial to ensuring an equitable and sustainable society.

In the UK we are familiar with changes to how our public services are funded and provided. Heated public debates about our public services - such as hospitals, schools, public transport - frequently hit the headlines. Public Finance Initiatives (PFI) to fund the building of hospitals, the controversial Public Private Partnership proposals for the London Underground and the privatised railways are all heavily criticised for their effects on these services.

Jean Lambert and the Greens are fighting to ensure that universal access and affordable services are guaranteed, to quality services.

This debate is not just limited to the UK, but is part of a worldwide trend. The UK has advanced further in the field of privatisation than other EU countries, but European Union legislation on the liberalisation of "services of general interest" is developing fast.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) also has an important influence, and the ongoing negotiations on the GATS Agreement (General Agreement on Trade in Services) pose a potentially serious threat to our public services. The UK Government is one of the main players in developing this agreement, for the benefit of the UK services industry.

Jean Lambert is working within the European Parliament and using her position as an MEP to try and guarantee the future of public services.

Press release on privatisation, November 2001

Link to Caroline Lucas MEP's website -more info on public services

January 2003: London Rail operators should learn more from Europe









GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services)

The GATS is a World Trade Organisation agreement on trade in services - 160 sectors including health, waste disposal, financial services, education, water distribution, and tourism. GATS poses a serious threat to public services in Britain and around the world and Jean has been lobbying UK and EC negotiators to ensure that public services are kept safe.

In December 2002/ January 2003 Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas submitted joint responses to EC and UK Consultations on GATS

EC Consultation Response

UK Consultation Response

GATS information briefing / PDF format

European Parliamentarians from different political parties signed a 'call' on GATS. Read it here

Useful Links


World Development Movement




NEWS: 12th March 2003


The EU Greens voted against a Resolution on GATS as too many questions were left open, after other political groups voted to throw out key demands.

Key demands not adopted included those calling for a moratorium on GATS to allow for democratic debate, and full impact assessment of the possible outcome of GATS - which for the moment is largely unknown.

However, a couple of Green amendments were supported, including those stating that the Parliament:

"Supports the right of each WTO member to regulate public services and services of general interest and to uphold the principle of universal service obligations; wishes to see a clarification of the right to regulate, to ensure that it cannot be undermined by the application of trade-related criteria such as the necessity test or the requirement to be "least trade-restrictive";


"Recognises that the ability of some developing and least developed countries to regulate service sectors which were previously under public control or ownership may be limited or non-existent and calls on the Commission to act sensitively in those areas where the developing country concerned has genuine development-based objections; insists that certain service sectors, such as water and sanitation, have a special status in developing and least developed countries, impacting directly and dramatically on people's daily lives, and therefore require special treatment;"

Green Group Press Release

European Parliament Resolution


The EU and Services of General Interest

(Coming shortly)






Greens/EFA Group statement on public services


from the background document prepared for the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development, August 2002

"In order for sustainable development to become a reality, taking account of public services must be effectively regulated by institutions enjoying democratic legitimacy,the principle of subsidiarity. Policy relating to public services is fundamentally a public matter. Indeed, no economy can dispense with effective public services, which also provide jobs and, for instance in the case of public transport, are the only alternative to self-services which are oriented for the individual, costly, inefficient, unequally accessible and often polluting.

Public services need to function in an efficient and transparent manner and to internalise external environmental costs, while remaining affordable and universally accessible, even to the poor, the disabled or those living in remote areas. Their performances are to be evaluated on a regular basis by independent bodies, and the evaluation process should make it possible for citizens and users to participate.

The current trend concerning public services is unsustainable, at both the European and world levels. In the EU, liberalisation is being pursued at a dizzying pace on a sector-by-sector basis, without any serious, democratic and independent evaluation of their environmental and social impact or of the quality of the service. Private, unaccountable, non-transparent oligopolies, which operate on a cross-sector basis, tend to replace public monopolies and dictate their conditions to public authorities. Job losses, reduced access for the poor, the disabled or those living in remote regions, lower quality of the service and often relatively higher prices result from this. The candidate countries, which have to open their markets to prepare for accession to the European Union, are the new prey of these private companies.

At world level, and far from any democratic scrutiny or public debate, negotiations within the framework of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) threaten to worsen these problems, with dramatic consequences not only for the EU and other industrialised countries, but also - and above all - for the developing world. GATS negotiations have already started, with the EU asking a certain number of countries to liberalise industries providing "services of general interest": telecomms, postal services, energy, transport, water. Health care and education, other public services which are normally considered to be part of the exclusive prerogative of domestic policy-makers, are on the negotiating table. Public interest regulations, such as tobacco control and environmental protection laws, are also threatened.

Before further liberalisation of any sector is contemplated, a serious, democratic and independent evaluation is required of the performance of public services, of the long term impact of their possible liberalisation and of the social and environmental consequences of their liberalisations to date. This should be overseen by a permanent and independent European observatory, which includes both customers and citizens.

Rules need to be clarified regarding the financing of public services in a manner that allows them to fully perform their essential role. In the field of public procurement, a wide range of social andenvironmental criteria should be used. At the international level, the GATS provisions that affect governments' ability to regulate public services in the public interest, or that otherwise threaten public interest regulation, need to be suppressed, and negotiations should be stopped on the liberalisation of network and non-network public services and on the curtailment of other public interest regulations."