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Social services of general interest (SSGIs)

Services of general interest (SGIs) are services, whether market or non-market, considered to be in the general interest by the public authorities and thus subjected to certain public-service obligations. They include non-market services (security, justice, compulsory education, healthcare and social services) and services of general economic interest (e.g. energy and communications).

Protocol No 26 annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises the importance of SGIs and the EU's shared values in their regard, in particular:

  • the diversity of SGIs and the right of each EU country to choose how services are delivered;
  • the need to ensure a high level of quality, safety and affordability, equal treatment and the promotion of universal access and of user rights.

Specifically as regards social services of general interest (SSGIs), the European Social Protection Committee in 2010 published a voluntary EU quality framework providing guidelines on how to set, monitor and evaluate quality standards. The Commission has published guidance for SGIs in general, and SSGIs in particular, on the application of EU state aid, internal market and public procurement rules.

These reflect the Commission's decision to pursue a sectorial approach for the present rather than proposing a European framework directive for all forms of SGI.