The European Parliament has demanded that public services, including education, be excluded from the Trade in Services Agreement in its recommendations to the European Commission.
Education International (EI) welcomes the TiSA recommendations adopted by the European Parliament (EP) during the 16th round of secret negotiations. The elected body adopted a resolution containing its recommendations to the European Commission on TiSA negotiations on 3 February. It underlined the need for the exclusion of “current and future services of general interest and services of general economic interest from the scope of application of the agreement (including, but not limited to, water, health, social services, social security systems and education, waste management and public transport)”.
Importance of high-quality services
The EP reiterated that the European Union, national and local authorities should retain the full right to introduce, adopt, maintain, or repeal any measures with regard to the commissioning, organisation, funding, and provision of public services. The EP also stated that this exclusion should be applied irrespective of how the public services are provided and funded. It also called on the European Commission to recognise the significant importance attached by European citizens to high-quality public services that contribute to social and territorial cohesion.
The EP further pushes for the introduction of an unequivocal ‘gold standard’ clause. This clause could be included in all trade agreements and would ensure that the public utilities clause applies to all modes of supply and to any services considered to be public services by European, national or regional authorities, in any sector and irrespective of the service's monopoly status. This would include education, which was not previous the case.
Call to reject specific clauses
According to the EP, the European Commission should also reject specific clauses that would make it impossible to reverse past liberalisations and lead to ever-increasing levels of liberalisation. The EP calls for enough flexibility to bring services of general economic interest back into public control; and maintain the right of the EU and Member States to modify their level of liberalisation.
Education International is closely monitoring that education does not become liberalised through the backdoor in TiSA, undermining the limited progress that has been made to protect education in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
“ Recent EP research shows that in the case of TiSA, the European Commission offers a higher level of liberalisation in the education sector compared to the TTIP negotiations,” explained EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.
Joining other organisations in a public statement ‘Why TiSA negotiations should be halted’, EI insists that the TiSA draft texts expose serious threats to public services, the quality of its services, the universal access to public services and the rights of public service workers, and deplores that TiSA is being negotiated without due public transparency and involvement of trade unions and civil society organisations.
In addition to following the EP’s process, EI has also raised its concerns around public services to rapporteur Viviane Reding and emphasised to need to carve out education and other public services. Its European member organisations also lobbied their MEPs on excluding education and other public services from TiSA.