Services of General Interest and the EU External Energy Policy

19 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2014 Last revised: 23 Apr 2015

See all articles by Panos Delimatsis

Panos Delimatsis

Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC); Tilburg Law School

Date Written: December 1, 2013


Services of general interest (SGI) are a key component of the EU economy, accounting for 26% of GDP and 30% of employment within the EU. They cover economic and noneconomic activities alike. They are to be distinguished from services of general economic interest (SGEI), which are economic activities which deliver outcomes in the overall public good and which would be supplied under conditions less favourable to the consumers in terms of quality, safety, affordability, equal treatment or universal access if the State did not intervene. As the SGEI is a particularly developed concept within the EU, the relevant discussions inevitably focus on the internal dimension of SGI. Less is said about the external aspects of such services. One of the most promising areas for such discussions is the energy sector, whereby the EU is called upon to show leadership not only due to global concerns relating to sustainable development, but also due to the EU’s dependence from external energy sources. Against this backdrop, this paper discusses the external dimension of the EU energy policy in the area of SGI. After a review of the role of SGI in the energy sector, the paper focuses on the external aspects of the EU energy policy, tentatively discussing ends and means. In Section D an analysis of the SGI within the broader scope of the EU external action is offered. In this regard, the concept of public services in the context of energy is examined through a discussion of the relevant rules in the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the role of energy services in the GATS and some relevant provisions in a number of free trade agreements (FTAs) that the EU concluded jointly with its Member States.

Keywords: Services of general interest, services of general economic interest, public services, energy, electricity and natural gas markets, EU Energy Policy, Free Trade, WTO, GATS

JEL Classification: F13, F53, K33, L32, L38, L88, L94, L95, L98, N70, N74, Q38, Q48

Suggested Citation

Delimatsis, Panagiotis, Services of General Interest and the EU External Energy Policy (December 1, 2013). TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2013-025. Available at SSRN: or

Panagiotis Delimatsis (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC) ( email )

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Tilburg, NL-5000 LE
0031 13 466 8251 (Phone)
0031 13 466 8047 (Fax)


Tilburg Law School ( email )

Warandelaan 2
Postbus 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE

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