Aleksander Maziarz, Nov 11, 2015
EU law does not provide a definition of Services of General Economic Interest (“SGEI”); simply, it gives a wide discretion in the introduction of these services and their performance to the Member States. But this does not mean that every service can be regarded as SGEI; such status can be given only to those services which are indispensable for every member of society. Moreover,such services need to be supported by the state because of the market failure in their provision. Simply put, companies would not deliver such services to every interested citizen because they would be unprofitable. When the market is unable to provide society with essential needs there is a place for state intervention in the form of SGEI.
The concept of SGEI is very misty. It gives a lot of room for interpreting which service can be regarded as a SGEI. The European Commission states that Member States are,in general,free to define such services. However, the Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”) has stated that Member States are not unlimited in their recognition of SGEI and that they cannot do it in an arbitrary manner. In several judgments, the CJEU has pointed out that the classification of a service as a SGEI by a Member State may be challenged by the European Commission in the event of manifest error. In another judgment,the Court has stated that such services relate primarily to an individual Member State. It means that recognition of a SGEI may differ from one Member State to another.
The telecommunication sector is one of the sectors of economy in which SGEI can be provided. But because there is no clear guidance which services in this sector can be regarded as a SGEI per European court judgments a Commission decision is needed. The aim of the article is to answer which telecommunication services can be classified as a SGEI,and if it is possible to find common elements of such services.