of General Interest – Commission consults Member States
|In its White Paper on Services of General Interest (SGI)
the Commission announced a special Communication on social SGI. Therefore
the Commission is currently consulting the High level group on health services
and medical care as well as the Member States. Social Services of General
Interest, according to the Commission working paper include, among others,
statutory social protection schemes, health and social care services as
well as education and training. A questionnaire was drawn up to collect
The whole process takes place against the background of ongoing work on
Services of General Interest and the Proposal for a Directive on Services
in the Internal Market (see EP Hearing 11.11.2004). Member States are due
to reply by 15 December 2004.
Questions which need answering include:
- Is there at national level a notion or definition of social SGI or social
- It has been argued that social SGI are different to other SGI –
Do you agree with this? Is a more detailed analysis of these possible differences
–especially in relation to networks industries
- In case you feel that social SGI are different to other SGI please indicate
what could then be the elements for a description at European level of these
specificities of social SGI's, taking into account the diversity of general
interest missions related to social services in the Member States and the
- Please describe experiences concerning the influence of these EC rules
on social SGI (may be “good” or “bad” examples;
e.g. have these rules enabled the efficient provision of certain services
or have they limited the freedom to realise national social policy goals)?
- Should the work to be carried on only concern social services of general
economic interest and concentrate on e.g. competition rules and certain
internal market rules or should social SGI both of an economic or non-economic
nature be subject for further work?
- What should be the concrete aim (especially concerning further steps)
of the Communication of the Commission on social SGI including health services?
- Should there be legally defined criteria, e.g. criteria concerning quality,
affordability, accessibility or solidarity at European level?
A “Background Document – Legal Framework”
was sent out together with the questionnaire. This document describes
the different legal aspects of EC rules which might affect social SGI
or could affect these in future following evolutions in the organisation
of service provision. The Secretariat of the Commission recalls the basic
elements regarding social services such as Article 86 (2) of the Treaty
which ensures the freedom of the Member States to define what they regard
as a mission of general interest as long as the public service mission
is “clearly defined and explicitly entrusted through an act of public
Regarding the health care sector the paper distinguishes between the ‘provision
of health services’, “which is to be considered as an economic
activity” and on the other hand, ‘bodies financing and organising
the health service provision’. Moreover, the authors recall several
rulings of the Court confirming the status of health services as economic
activities, even if the institution providing the service is not an enterprise
in the sense of EC competition rules.
Another important item in the background document is the so-called “Altmark-criteria”.
In this case the Court established four criteria to justify State aid
as public service compensation. These include a clear public service obligation
and a transparent compensation.
Finally the Commission refers to the “Proposal for a directive on
services in the internal market” (directive Bolkestein) and concludes
that “the discussions have so far shown a need for clarification
of the possible impact of the application of certain provisions in the
proposed directive to certain social services of general interest”.
healthcare workers at risk
Health First Europe organises special event in the European Parliament
event, calling for more protection of healthcare workers from sharps’
|Today, on World AIDS day, Health First Europe (HFE) held
a special event in the European Parliament to raise awareness amongst decision
makers and the public about the risks of sharps’ injuries to healthcare
workers and the risk of infection with HIV, Hepatitis or other fatal infections.
HFE urgently calls for supplementary safety requirements to address this
public health issue.
Nurses, doctors and other medical staff in the EU are exposed to highly
elevated levels of risk, a fact which is all too often ignored. It is estimated
that 1 million injuries from needles or other sharp medical devices are
suffered by healthcare workers across the European Union each year. More
than 20 dangerous blood-borne pathogens are transmitted by contaminated
needles, including Hepatitis and HIV. If injured by a contaminated needle,
the chances of becoming infected are as high as 1 in 3 for Hepatitis B,
1 in 30 for Hepatitis C and 1 in 300 for HIV.
At invitation from Health First Europe (HFE), nurses from eight European
countries today met with MEPs at the European Parliament to discuss the
risk of needlestick injuries and the threat that they face at the workplace
every day. Existing European worker safety legislation has effectively done
little to protect healthcare workers from needlesticks and other medical
sharps and from accidental infection. Yet, more than 80% of such injuries
can be prevented through a combination of training, safer working practices
and the use of medical devices incorporating needlestick protection technology,
as independent studies show .
“The fact that one million sharps’
injuries occur in the EU every year, not counting an estimated 60-80% of
unreported incidents, is a clear sign that not enough is being done to protect
our healthcare workers from injuries”, said Ria von Bönninghausen
of the Standing Committee of Nurses to the EU and associate member of Health
First Europe. “We want European worker safety and health directives
amended and we want national authorities to be stricter in the implementation
of these directives, across the EU.”
Health First Europe (HFE) fully supports recommendations made by the European
Agency for Safety and Health at Work that aim at implementing the use of
devices with safety features, modifying work practices and training workers
in the safe use and disposal of needles . However, HFE also calls on the
European Commission to work towards amending existing legislation, to include
specific requirements to protect healthcare workers from sharps’ injuries.
“We specifically suggest the inclusion of an additional annex to Directive
2000/54/EC, concerning biological agents. Given the seriousness of the situation,
we believe that we need additional legal requirements for the management
of risk in the healthcare context”, commented Imelda Read, Honorary
Chairperson of HFE.
|But where the European Commission has a decisive role to
play in developing the legal framework for a better protection of healthcare
workers, EU Member States are equally called upon to consistently apply
and enforce the highest standards of safety. Where sharps’ injuries
are concerned, the level of protection provided for healthcare workers across
the EU varies greatly. The adoption in recent years of specific protection
measures in countries such as France, Germany or Spain has been an encouraging
development. However, Health First Europe (HFE) warns that sufficient protection
measures are not being implemented, or are not even being considered, by
the majority of healthcare providers across the EU.
be taken now to reduce the risks of sharp’s injuries to healthcare
workers across the EU”, says Bert Van Caelenberg, Secretary General
of Eurofedop, the European Federation of Public Service Employees, and member
of Health First Europe. “It is the responsibility of the EU Member
States but also of the European Commission to ensure that no disparity exists
in the protection provided to our workers, anywhere in the EU.”
About Health First Europe:
Health First Europe was established in March 2004 as a platform by and
for patient groups, healthcare workers, academics, experts and the medical
technology industry to encourage reflection and dialogue on the future
of healthcare in Europe at a time of demographic and technological revolution.
It calls for a truly patient-centred healthcare; every European citizen
should benefit from the best and most appropriate medical treatments available.
Healthcare is regarded as vital investment in the future of Europe. The
European federation of employees in public services is a founding-member
of Health First Europe.
More info: www.healthfirsteurope.org
Public Hearing on the proposal for a Directive on services in the internal
The fact that even three large conference rooms in the
EP building in Brussels could barely house hundreds of interested parties
wishing to participate in this hearing, indicated the enormous impact
of the draft directive on services, that the European Commission had submitted
to the European Parliament.
Before MEPs will decide their positions on this extremely complex issue,
the Internal Market and Social Affairs Committees of the EP decided to
seek the views of experts at a public hearing held on 11 November in Brussels.
The directive is intended to give a legal framework to the services sector
and thus facilitate the free movement of services and the right for service
providers to set up in different Member States, while also providing legal
certainty for providers and customers.
However, services cannot all be treated the same, for various political
and legal reasons. Firstly, for some services, legislation already exists
or is in the pipeline, e.g. competitiveness, posting of workers and refunding
of healthcare costs. Secondly, each country has its own traditions and
political sensitivities, for example on services of general interest.
Nevertheless, the directive is not proposing to place services in different
categories. On the contrary, the Commission says it should adopt a single,
standard approach and that the way to accommodate differences is by means
of exemptions and derogations. But on this occasion, the view of the Commission
was only shared by a minority of the participants.
The experts invited by the MEPs, as well as the rapporteurs,
E. Gebhardt (Committee on the Internal market and consumer protection)
and A. Van Lancker (Committee on Employment and Social Affairs) raised
a number of defaults in the draft directive. Paul Beaumont, professor
of international private law (University of Aberdeen) pointed out the
legal flaws in the directive and thus attacked its very legal basis. Others
questioned the consequences of the ‘country of origin’ principle,
for example regarding the protection of workers.
During the 30 minutes reserved for discussing the interaction of the directive
with public service delivery, both speakers and MEPs expressed their concern
for a risk of weakening social services or public healthcare. Prof. Dr.
Peter Huber (Universität Munchen) argued that priority should be
given to a framework directive on services of general interest. Although
it is denied that the Bolkestein proposal will affect public services,
the speakers feared that the liberty of member states to organise these
services could be subject to Commission interference. The possibility
of ‘derogations’ by member states will be further curtailed
and this will infringe the provision of services of general interest.
Furthermore, the experts recalled that the Commission, in its White paper
on Services of General Interest, had stressed the necessity for a framework
directive in this field, but at the same time no progress whatsoever has
Ms. Baeten (Observatoire Social Européen), who commented on the
affects on health services, underlined that especially the Health Care
sector needed regulation in order to prevent the imperfectness of the
markets. She also opposed those who downplay the consequences and said
that the directive will lead to serious problems. And although an MEP
specifically asked to clear the confusion on this matter, the representative
of the Commission could not provide a satisfactory answer.
Eurofedop sees this hearing as a confirmation of its belief that the proposal
for a directive on services in the internal market will damage the provision
of public services in general, and health services in particular. Since
the impact of the directive cannot be assessed properly at present, we
demand that priority is given to the adoption of a framework directive
on services of general interest. Moreover, this hearing has proved that
the Commission failed to address basic concerns of many parties and that
a broader consultation is indispensable.
All speeches can be found at:
UGL Delegation visited
Eurofedop and EU Economic and Social Committee
seminar “European Social Dialogue and Public Administration”
Maastricht, 20-21 September 2004
The European Social Dialogue,
based on Articles 138 and 139 of the EC Treaty, has led to the adoption
of several directives based on framework agreements concluded by the social
partners. These directives have been incorporated into European legislation
that has consequences for staff employed by the various states.
This impact on public administration is made without the relevant bodies
in charge of employment conditions being involved in the negotiations
leading to the agreements and directives.
The ongoing debate raises issues concerning the representative role of
trade unions in the public administration sector, the creation of a specific
public administration sector for this European social dialogue and the
structuring of a platform representing the member states in such a dialogue.
This conference wanted to clarify the debate by means of a clear presentation
of the legal basis for the European social dialogue and its modus operandi,
the role of the European Commission in this respect, the manner in which
employees and employers are or are not represented in the negotiating
forum, and the strategies adopted by some EU member states to influence
the process before legislative acts are passed.
Eurofedop was not only represented by its Secretary General, Bert Van
Caelenberg, but also by Vice-President Luc Hamelinck (CCOD/CCSP) and by
a number of representatives from member organisations.
In his introductory speech, François Ziegler (DG employment and
social affairs, directorate social dialogue and social rights) began with
a description of the institutional context of European social dialogue.
In addition, he gave a survey of the Commission’s communications
in this respect, in particular COM(2004)557 final on “Partnership
for change in an enlarged Europe - Enhancing the contribution of European
social dialogue”. He also referred to the importance of the representativity
studies and announced that a continuation study would be carried out on
the public administration in the 10 new member states.
In a second part, the focus was on the creation of the new social dialogue
committee “Local and Regional Government”. Speeches were made
on the part of the employers and the trade unions, after which the results
and expectations regarding this committee were discussed. It showed that
probably due to the only recent creation of this committee (beginning
2004), not many results had been produced so far. The EIPA official responsible
for the organisation of the seminar, Mr Robert Polet, spoke then of “The
importance of the social dialogue for central administrations and its
added value at European level”.
The seminar went on by giving national trade unions and employers the
opportunity to present their views. On behalf of the trade unions, the
Eurofedop colleagues Marcela Gatciova (SLOVES), Willy Russ (DBB), Leodolfo
Bettencourt (STE) and Geza Agg (KSS) gave explanation about their national
practices. On the part of the employers, an interesting speech was held
by Dominique Lacambre from France. He joined the STE in its position that
employees of the public service are already being affected by a number
of European regulations, which makes it necessary to react quickly. The
Ministers of the Civil Service, and their regular informal sessions, play
a major role in this respect. If we have faith in the Civil Service, we
should use all the instruments available. Therefore, a European social
dialogue that would be more than just a talking group, would be useful
and desirable, according to this French employer.
The Dutch Presidency, represented by Nico
van Dam (Council for Public Sector Personnel Policy), gave a survey of
the way in which the present regulations regarding social dialogue in
the public services come about in the Netherlands.
Then the question of the organisation of the employers was discussed.
It was suggested that employers would organise themselves through the
CEEP. However, it showed that the majority rejected this as a non-realistic
scenario. The final decision lies with the Ministers of the Civil Service
who could mandate their directors general to this end.
Mr Pochet (European Social Observatory) had been asked to draw his conclusions
from the different interventions. The definition of a “perimeter”
within which a committee can operate, will, according to him, always have
borders somewhere. As regards the public services, the principle of subsidiarity
plays an important role. A positive element may be, thus Mr Pochet, that
there is still an employer everywhere, also after the enlargement. The
themes to be dealt with must have a European dimension and new themes
could be dealt with (e.g. stress). As regards the representativity, Pochet
concluded that the problem is mainly a problem of representation. He put
emphasis on the difference between “representativity” and
“representation” and underlined that to ask for a mandate
is one thing, to know what to do with it is the next thing. There is little
sense in looking for direct results. The aim should be to build up skills
and trust during the ride in a dynamic process. Maybe an appeal could
be made to external experts (EIPA) to develop a real vision. Mr Pochet
was very critical of the results of the European Social Dialogue. Most
of the “agreements” remain stuck in generalities. It appears
from a recent study that the existing European committees mainly focus
on issues such as legislation, modernisation and competition.
On behalf of the EIPA, Mr Polet ended the session with the following conclusions
- employers in public services are also legislators, which is unique in
the consultation structure of social dialogue,
- if we see workers in the public service as workers in the private sector,
the trade union rights should also be linked with this,
- the European Commission has not kept aloof (e.g. the enlargement) and
imposed rules also on the public administrations,
- through contacts in the Troika and the workshops, the new member states
can make a lot of new experiences.
HRM Meeting, 21.09.2004
learning is both a right and duty to the worker. but it seems that the
proper balance hasn’t been found yet between the individual’s
need for broad development and the organisation’s need to deliver
and continue to deliver a high-standing service.
The problems are often:
- lack of time and money
- lack of support by management
- lack of a tradition and culture of lifelong learning
It was said by Rolf Weber who explained the position of Eurofedop on life
long learning in a Meeting of the HRM group 21. of September.
The meeting was made by the Dutch Presidency and people from almost all
of the 25 countries of the European Union participated.
of Declaration of Intent for a European Gendarmerie Force
Noordwijk (NL), 16-17.09.2004
Ministers of Defence of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands
signed a Declaration of Intent this morning concerning the establishment
of a European Gendarmerie Force (EGF).
The declaration was signed during the informal meeting of Ministers
of Defence of the European Union in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.
European Gendarmerie Force is a police force with military status. Although
the EGF can conduct tasks throughout the spectrum of police missions,
it is excellently suited to deployment during or immediately after a military
operation for maintaining public order and safety and in situations where
local police forces are not (sufficiently) deployable. It should also
be possible for the rapidly-deployable EGF to conduct operations in support
of the fight against organised crime and the protection of participants
in civil missions. The EGF is a multinational unit that is not only allocated
to the EU, but also to the UN, the OSCE and NATO. The initiative for establishing
the EGF was taken in 2003 by the Minister of Defence of France, Mrs Alliot-Marie.
The force headquarters in Vicenza (Italy) should be established in early
2005. The plan is for the EGF to become operational at the end of 2005.
Dutch Defence Minister Henk Kamp,
Secretary-General Javier Solana,
French Defence Minister Michle Alliot-Marie,
German Defence Minister Peter Struck.
minister of Defence, Henk Kamp, who holds the chair of the EU, said
that he was pleased, 'that we could reach this milestone here in Noordwijk.
I am certain that this force will become an important capability, bridging
the gap between military forces and civil police forces'.
Counter-terrorism measures well in hand but more cooperation needed between
governments, says EU anti-terror coordinator
"The risk of terror attacks in Europe
remains serious" Gijs DE VRIES, the EU counter-terrorism coordinator,
warned at a meeting with MEPs and Members of national parliaments on Tuesday.
He said closer cooperation between EU Member States was essential in the
fight against terrorism and he agreed with MEPs that attention should
focus on implementing the decisions taken. Another security expert, Peter
SCHAAR, commented on concerns about the protection of personal data.
Mr DE VRIES set out the main points of an EU anti-terrorism action plan
at a hearing organised by the Civil Liberties Committee to exchange views
on combating terrorism, data protection, biometrics and police cooperation.
"Terrorism is a major security threat to the EU", said Mr De
Vries, which was why Javier Solana had drawn up a European security strategy
and the Council had established a Joint Intelligence Centre. He urged
the EU to help third countries combat terrorism and added "terrorism
is a global phenomenon that must be fought at international level. But
the Member States bear the primary responsibility for doing so".
MEPs pointed to the problems in cooperation with the US on issues such
as data protection standards. They also stressed the problem of implementation.
Mr De Vries agreed that the implementation of some decisions such as the
one on money laundering had been slow. Turning to the Beslan massacre,
Mr De Vries said terrorists were becoming more brutal. "No one had
anticipated the brutality we now see," he claimed but at the same
time he sought to reassure the audience that the issue of terrorism was
on the agenda of every European Council meeting.
He emphasised again, however, that combating
terrorism was not only a European responsibility but also a national one.
Lastly, Mr De Vries described as largely unjustified the fear that fundamental
rights would be violated in the fight against terrorism, saying "Human
rights are a core European value, that guide us in our decisions and in
our relations with third countries".
Peter SCHAAR, who chairs the EU advisory body on data protection and privacy
known as the Article 29 Working Party, then took the floor. He identified
three issues of concern today in connection with the protection of personal
data: the transfer of airline passenger data to the US, the storage of
telecommunications data and the inclusion of biometric data in visas and
passports. On this last point, Mr Schaar explained that statements by
the US Department of Homeland Security indicated that passports with a
computer chip containing personal information could be read from a distance
of up to 20 metres - without the passport holder being aware of it. This
was clearly a serious problem from a data protection point of view.
21.09.2004 Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
In the chair: Jean-Louis BOURLANGES (ALDE, FR)
Security on a Crossroads
16-17.09.2004, Luxembourg (Jean Monnet
the context of the European integration it is really important to trade
unionists to have an insight in and knowledge of legal, organisational
and future relations. This is particularly true for trade union delegates
in security services.
internal and external security is a task that national and European politics
cannot possibly shun. It really should make available the necessary resources
and, in case of cross-border police cooperation, provide a clear legal
protection of the intervening police officers.
Feiner, Chairman of the Trade Council Police (Germany)
Dr. H. Pirker, European expert immigration and asylum policy (Austria)
Pim Gooijers, Chairman of the Trade Council Defence (The Netherlands)
the fact of ensuring the security of the citizens depends in the first
place on a sufficient staff, on adequate social and professional prospect
for the entire staff and on the available technical support. The trade
councils Police/European Police Union (EPU) and Defence of EUROFEDOP call
on the political world to renounce future cuts in the field of security
and to extend massively the current resources.
and successful trade union action requires a strong commitment to social
matters and an extensive knowledge of international relations. This conference
of experts has been no doubt conducive to a sizeable extension of that
knowledge. It is important for the participants that this knowledge and
the necessity of European trade union action penetrate into the national
trade union action and contribute to a better understanding of the way
the European Union functions.
Van Caelenberg, Secretary General of Eurofedop
Glorie, Director General, Prevention, Ministry of the Interior (Belgium)
Pim Gooijers, Chairman of the Trade Council Defence (The Netherlands)
Peter Gridling - EUROPOL Den Haag (The Netherlands)
- Signature of declaration of intent for a European
- Gijs de Vries reports on terrorism to EP