Moment of truth for public services: Quality, affordability and social dialogue

Last week, CESI contributed to a seminar at the European Parliament on the importance of public services hosted by Françoise Castex MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s intergroup on public services. The seminar was organised in collaboration with Europolitics, the European affairs daily, following the publication of a Europolitics special on Public Services: the Moment of Truth.

Klaus Heeger, Secretary General of CESI, wrote an article in the Europolitics special edition which focused on the importance of social dialogue, as well as the challenges faced by the public sector throughout the crisis. Klaus Heeger also participated in the European Parliament’s intergroup debate on the subject.

The first panel focused on the state of play of public services in Europe, with an intervention by Pierre Bauby calling on the Commission to take more initiative in this area. A cabinet member for Michel Barnier, Commissioner for Internal Market, spoke about the state of play of the public procurement and concessions legislation. Olivier Gerard hoped the legislation would pass through plenary at the European Parliament without any problem, but underlined that the wider debate on these issues was far from over.

Marc Tarabella MEP and Franck Engel MEP were also positive about the work carried out on these proposals, but noted that how the legislation is transposed in different Member States will differ greatly throughout Europe.

The second panel took a more social dimension to the debate on public services in Europe, by looking at the changes for social actors. Laurent Ghekière from the Union sociale pour l’habitat underlined the interlinked nature of European policies. With economic policies impact on retail estate, Laurent Ghekière called for the European Parliament to play more of a role in economic governance and state to have a solid impact in this sphere.

In the healthcare sector, Pascal Garel, director-general of the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE) underlined that the debate on the costs of public services with regard to healthcare need to focus not only on questions of access but also on questions of quality. Raymond Hencks form the European Economic and Social Committee also commented on costs, highlighting the “Moment of Truth” in public services being linked to affordability. Klaus Heeger focused on the importance of social dialogue for public services: ‘The recent crisis has seen an unfair burden of spending cuts falling on public services and on public sector workers, worst of all these measures being taken with informing or consulting staff. One of the greatest challenges in Europe at the moment is reversing these trends.’