Local utilities and public services in Europe: challenges and opportunities
Local utilities represent one of the least studied subject among the disciplines focused on the transformations of network industries and, more generally, on the delivery of local public services (LPS). This deficit of attention is not due to a lack of relevance, as publicly owned corporations and institutional public-private partnership represent an important phenomenon in many European countries such as Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries, just to name a few. More likely, scholars overlooked public utilities because they constitute a difficult topic to deal with. There is no homogeneous legal framework at the European level and each Member State has its own tradition in regulating the utilities. Moreover, even within each national context, reliable databases on local utilities often do not exist and, in any case, it is very difficult to undertake cross-country comparisons.
The four articles in this special issue confirm the multifaceted nature of this subject and open the floor for future reflections on the role of local utilities and regulation of LPS in Europe. Citroni, Lippi and Profeti highlight the political nature of local utilities. At the crossroad between public ownership and market environment, local utilities stand out as complex agents that are influenced but also able to affect local regulation. In this light Di Giulio and Galanti describe the ongoing regionalization of local public services in Italy. The other two contributions focus on two classical features concerning the regulation of these kinds of markets. Ida and Talit provide insights on the building of a market for bus and coach lines in Israel as a driver of efficiency. Sokołowski explores the potential of local utilities as agents of policy effectiveness in improving energy security.
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