Services of general interest

Swoboda (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism – Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, unlike Mr Langen, I would like to say that my committee has painted a rather subtler picture than that presented in the regrettable contributions to this report from the Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. I would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank Mr Herzog and say that, while it is unfortunate that too few of his good ideas have found their way into this draft, we may perhaps be able to make some corrections.
The Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy did indeed, with the support of votes from the Group of the European People´s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, opt for European framework legislation, and our committee takes the view that services of public interest are something special; they are a characteristic, a distinguishing mark of the European social model, and that is something that we wanted the report to make abundantly clear.
Let us, for example, consider the postal service. We are not opposed to liberalisation measures, far from it; our committee, too, has prepared them in various sectors. We know, however, how important it is for many people in Europe that there should be in their neighbourhood a post office – `office´ is perhaps the wrong word – a postal facility. That also plays a part in the European public´s satisfaction with public services.
Alternatively, let us consider local transport. A majority in this House has rejected the Commission´s proposals for liberalisation – which I would describe as pigheaded – and the Commission is now finding it extremely difficult to come up with new ones, our view having been that public passenger traffic cannot be seen in black and white in the same way as trans-European freight transport or air travel, and that there are special interests involved in it, including regional ones. The Committee on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism is therefore also of the opinion that local and regional authorities in particular must have greater freedom, the freedom to define. The fact is that this also plays a part in democratic politics, as the public, if they are dissatisfied with the services, can respond accordingly by voting certain towns´ governments out of office and other parties into it. It is especially in the provision of public services that this democratic element should not be overlooked, and so I hope that the Herzog report will enable even more to be done to strengthen social cohesion in Europe.