EESC: Essential services available to everyone

Raymond Hencks (L) and Krzysztof Balon (R)

Everyone must be entitled to access essential services such as water, energy and transport, as they are vital for social justice, insisted the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in its own-initiative opinion adopted in the June session. The opinion was drafted by Raymond Hencks and Krzysztof Balon from the Section TEN.

It is not a surprise that the report focuses on better implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, as the right to access “essential services” of good quality, such as water, sanitation, energy, transport, electronic communications and banking services is the 20th and final principle of this centrepiece document of the Juncker Commission. The “essential services” concept is a new one and does not exist in the Treaties. The EESC considers it to refer to “Services of General Economic Interest” (SGEIs) that are already covered by EU law.

Some of these services are insufficiently regulated and implemented in the Member States, rapporteur Hencks pointed out, noting that the concept of essential services will also have to be clarified and concrete measures will have to be taken to fight the existing failures.

Co-rapporteur Balon specified that the right to access essential services is a vital component of social justice, underpinned by the principle of equal treatment of users, prohibiting any kind of discrimination or exclusion, and by the principle of universal access to services of a high level of affordability and quality.

Among the suggested measures, the EESC urges Member States to define indicators to determine the nature of universal access for each SGEI, such as density of access points, maximum distance to an access point, regularity of service.

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