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Services of general economic interest

Services of general economic interest (SGEI) are commercial services of general economic utility subject to public-service obligations. Transport, energy, communications and postal services are prime examples.

The Treaty of Lisbon breaks new ground:

  • by adding a protocol on services of general interest to the founding Treaties;
  • by creating a new legal basis which enables the European institutions to adopt regulations concerning the operation of SGEI (Article 14 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU). However, EU law leaves EU countries free to decide how they organise SGEIs.

Free market and competition rules apply to undertakings responsible for managing SGEIs so long as these rules do not prevent them from accomplishing their tasks in the general interest.