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The new regulation of public infrastructure services in the European Union. Challenges for territorial cohesion


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  • Judith Clifton
  • Daniel Díaz-Fuentes
  • Marcos Fernández-Gutiérrez
  • Julio Revuelta


Public infrastructure services (or Services of General Economic Interest, SGEI) in the European Union have undergone significant reform in the recent period, including privatization, liberalization and deregulation. These reforms, however, have led to concerns about the potential impact of pursuing economic profitability over service quality, affordability, accessibility and universality. Traditionally, because SGEI have been understood as playing a key economic, social and strategic role, they have been subject to specific rules in the general interest: so-called Public Service Obligations (PSO). A key objective of PSO is to ensure equal access to services, independent of the place of residence, income or other factors. PSO are, therefore, a key instrument as regards ensuring equity and territorial cohesion. As such, it constitutes a fundamental concern in European regional policy. Traditionally, the regulation of SGEI has focused on the supply side, as it has been assumed competition in an integrated European market would benefit citizens. Despite this, little research has actually been done on evaluating regulation from the demand side, not to speak of applying a regional focus. The aim of this paper is to evaluate SGEI provision and regulation in the EU from the perspective of citizens as consumers using a regional perspective. We focus on the region (NUTS1) and the urban/rural character of the place of residence as possible determinants of disparities. To do so, a microeconometric analysis of citizens’ revealed and stated preferences is performed, focusing on three large European countries (Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) for four services: electricity, gas, water and telecommunications. First, disparities in spending on the services are analyzed, using National Household Budget Surveys. Next, differences in dissatisfaction with service access and price are analyzed, using the Eurobarometer. Finally, we analyze whether lower consumption of a particular service in a particular region or rural area is related to problems of accessibility, affordability or to other factors. Findings show different regional patterns of services use. Moreover, serious and widespread problems are observed regarding equal access to services such as gas and telecommunications in rural areas, of some concern for the question of territorial cohesion.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by European Regional Science Association in its series ERSA conference papers with number ersa11p1416.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa11p1416

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  1. Judith Clifton & Daniel Díaz-Fuentes, 2010. "Evaluating Eu Policies On Public Services: A Citizens' Perspective," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 281-311, 06.
  2. Fabienne Ilzkovitz & Adriaan Dierx & Nuno Sousa, 2008. "An analysis of the possible causes of product market malfunctioning in the EU: First results for manufacturing and service sectors," European Economy - Economic Papers, Directorate General Economic and Monetary Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission 336, Directorate General Economic and Monetary Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  3. Monica Giulietti & Catherine Waddams Price & Michael Waterson, 2005. "Consumer Choice and Competition Policy: a Study of UK Energy Markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(506), pages 949-968, October.
  4. Juan R. Cuadrado-Roura & Antonio Garcia-Tabuenca, 2004. "ICT policies for SMEs and regional disparities. The Spanish case," Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 55-75, January.
  5. Carlo Vittorio FIORIO & Massimo FLORIO & Silvia SALINI & Pieralda FERRARI, 2007. "European consumers’ attitudes on services of general interest: accessibility, price and quality," Departmental Working Papers, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano 2007-04, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
  6. Raffaele Miniaci & Carlo Scarpa & Paola Valbonesi, 2007. "Distributional effects of price reforms in the Italian utility markets," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno" 0050, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
  7. Carlo Vittorio FIORIO & Massimo FLORIO, 2008. "Do you pay a fair price for electricity? Consumers? satisfaction and utility reform in the EU," Departmental Working Papers, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano 2008-12, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
  8. John C. Whitehead & Subhrendu K. Pattanayak & George L. Van Houtven & Brett R. Gelso, 2008. "Combining Revealed And Stated Preference Data To Estimate The Nonmarket Value Of Ecological Services: An Assessment Of The State Of The Science," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(5), pages 872-908, December.
  9. Michael Demoussis & Nicholas Giannakopoulos, 2006. "Facets of the digital divide in Europe: Determination and extent of internet use," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(3), pages 235-246.
  10. Judith Clifton & Francisco Comín & Daniel Díaz Fuentes, 2005. "‘Empowering Europe'S Citizens’?," Public Management Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(3), pages 417-443, September.
  11. Steven Van de Walle, 2006. "The impact of public service values on services of general interest reform debates," Public Management Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 183-205, June.
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