"The member states have to be actively involved in the substantive proceedings on the definition of social SGEIs in Case T-202/10"
By Laurent Ghekiére *
After years of proceedings, the EU General Court will soon be ruling on the substance of the European Commission's recent but established practice of manifest error in the classification of social services of general interest (SGEIs).
What is now known as the 'Dutch case' pitted the European Commission against the government of the Netherlands over the definition and scope of social housing in the domestic housing market.
Nearly 7.6 million European households living in social housing are potentially concerned by these cases and face the risk of being caught in the middle, as in the Netherlands: too rich to obtain or keep access to social housing but too poor to afford housing on the private market. Dutch housing corporations, backed by their French counterparts and by Housing Europe, the European social housing federation, appealed the Commission's decision.
Analysis of the Court of Justice and General Court judgements confirms member states' capacity to intervene in the case without having to demonstrate any legal interests in bringing proceedings, unlike other stakeholders.
Social housing corporations did the work of member states by appealing the Commission's decision and decision making practice before the Court of Justice. It is now for the states to intervene before the General Court, asserting clearly and expressly their exclusive competence to determine the scope of social public services and more specifically to establish the conditions for the allocation of social housing in terms of local needs and their collective and societal preferences.
* Laurent Ghekiére is director for European Affairs for Union Sociale pour l' Habitat (USH)
** The arcticle was first published on Europolitics on April 2, 2014.