Attac Austria: EU Commission Fails in Establishing Veto Right over Local Public Services

The EU Commission is trying to expand its powers within the EU in order to reduce democracy and support the interests of transnational corporations. For the time being it has failed in its efforts to determine policy with regard to public services.

Orignally posted in German on the website of Attac Austria

Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE

“Good news for democracy in Europe.”

The EU Commission has failed in its plans to increase its authority with regard to the EU Services Directive – also known as the Bolkestein Directive. The plans stipulated that federal states, cities and municipalities would have to obtain prior EU approval for newly planned service regulations in areas such as water and energy supply, nursing homes, and kindergartens, as well as urban and regional planning. Industrial lobbies have long been calling for the EU Commission to be given the right veto such decisions. It would have entailed a further weakening of public services and a considerable reduction in democracy. “Länder and municipalities would have been degraded to executive bodies of the Commission and the principle of subsidiarity would have been completely undermined. The failure of the proposal is therefore good news for democracy in Europe”, explained Elisabeth Klatzer of Attac Austria.

Broad resistance was successful

The broad resistance of around 160 civil society organisations, trade unions, local and regional parties and mayors was successful – for the time being. In 2018 and 2019, they wrote letters of protest to the Austrian and Romanian EU Presidencies. The Austrian Federal Council, the Italian Senate and both chambers of the French and German parliaments had also declared that the plans violated the subsidiarity principle of the EU. The EU governments could therefore not agree last week on a tightening. This means that no agreement can be reached with the EU Commission and the EU Parliament in this legislative period.

Will there be a new attempt after the EU elections?

Attac warns, however, that the Commission could resume its plans after the European elections. The Council has already instructed the Commission to submit new proposals for liberalising the services sector by March 2020. This is an opportunity to propose increasing the powers of the EU Commission again. “We hope that the EU Commission will learn a lesson from this failed attempt to expand its competences at the expense of democracy,” Klatzer explained.

Existing powers of the EU Commission in public services must also be curbed.

But even if the expansion of the EU Services Directive finally fails, the highly problematic Directive will remain in force. In order to enforce it, the Commission has already initiated numerous infringement proceedings against member states, which are increasingly restricting the scope for the provision of public services.


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