Services of general economic interest are commercial services of general economic utility, on which the public authorities therefore impose specific public-service obligations. Transport, energy and communications services are prime examples.
"General-interest services" are services considered to be in the general interest by the public authorities and accordingly subjected to specific public-service obligations. They include non-market services (e.g. compulsory education, social protection), obligations of the State (e.g. security and justice) and services of general economic interest (e.g. energy and communications).
A new Article 16 has been written into the EC Treaty by the Treaty of Amsterdam, acknowledging the place occupied by services of general economic interest in the shared values of the Union and their role in promoting social and territorial cohesion. Article 16 also states that such services must operate on the basis of principles and conditions which enable them to fulfil their functions.