The discussion in respect of the free trade agreements CETA and TTIP has one again put the focus on the issue concerning the responsibility for public services. With their liberalisation provisions, the proposals for CETA and TTIP go far beyond current free trade agreements. An international research project of the civil society Transnational Institute (TNI) has now, in cooperation with the Chamber of Labour, EPSU, PSIRU and other organisations, examined a view towards opposite processes, namely the return of public services from the private to the public sector.


International free trade agreements have increasingly resulted in public services associated with water, energy, infrastructure or transport being taken over by private companies. Negative experiences with the privatisation of these services have persuaded many cities and communities to return these back to the public sector, hence to remunicipalise them as expectations regarding the quality of services provided by private companies, as feared by the AK, were often not met.


Over recent years, these cities and communities triggered a “remunicipalisation wave” in a wide range of public services, for example water and energy supply, waste management, public transport of social services. Already in 2015, the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam (TNI) published an international study on remunicipalisation in the water sector. Between 2000 and 2015, a total of 235 remunicipalisations in the water sector in 37 countries had been documented. Based on this, a research project was initiated to examine the development of remunicipalisations of public services in all sectors over the past 17 years. The results of this research are published in a book, which from 23 June 2017, 12:00 h is available online: “Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation”.


Within the scope of the project, 835 case examples in more than 1,600 cities and 45 countries were collected worldwide; of these more than 300 in the German-speaking area. Most examples of remunicipalisation were found in the energy (311 cases) and water sector (267 cases). The largest share of remunicipalisation in the energy sector took place in Germany. In France, it was the water supply, which means exactly in the country which not only looks back at the longest history of the privatisation of water, but is also home to leading multinational water corporations – Suez and Veolia. In Spain, Great Britain and other countries a variety of local services such as swimming pools, school catering, public cleaning, housing, cleaning and security services were returned to the municipal administration. With regard to healthcare and social affairs more than half of the cases come from Norway and other Scandinavian countries.


From the view of the AK, this global remunicipalisation, which is taking place in all sectors, confirms that the liberalisation and privatisation of basic public services is no sustainable option, which is beneficial to the public sector. Public services must not become victim of the greed of individual companies, which only provide services, where profits can be generated. Hence, it is even more important to prevent that international free trade agreements will also apply to sectors of communal services.


Further information:

Study: Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation

AK EUROPA: Position paper: Proposal for a Directive on the award of concession contracts

AK EUROPA: Liberalisation public services: the salami tactics of the EU Commission

AK EUROPA: Intensified marketing of public services