ETUCE is a strong advocator of free quality public education for all and maintains that education is a human right and a public good, which is the responsibility of governments. ETUCE monitors international trade and investment agreements that the EU is pursuing and which may expose the education sector to privatisation and commercialisation pressures. ETUCE urges decision makers to entirely exclude education from trade agreements. Formally these trade agreements currently being negotiated are about trade, that is lowing tariff rates and quotas, however the main issues concern regulatory convergence and the elimination of "non-tariff" barrier to trade. Therefore, such trade agreements pose potentially serious risks for education policy, for public schools and other educational institutions, as well as for teachers, students and communities in the EU.

The Service Directive was adopted on 12 December 2006. Prior to its adoption ETUCE lobbied strongly against the inclusion of education into the scope of the directive. In particular, ETUCE pointed out the  risk of increased commercialisation of the education sector, as a result of the Services Directive. These concerns are materialised in the European Commission's infringement case against Slovenia's Higher Education Act, which is based on the Service Directive.

ETUCE demands that education is excluded from the service directive. In particular, ETUCE stresses the lack of legal certainty due to the mix of private/public funding and/or the mix of private/public provision in education. Therefore the education sector risks increased commercialisation as a result of the Service Directive. ETUCE highlights that the issue at stake is whether the protection of the right to free trade and free establishment should stand above Member States' efforts to ensure high quality in their education systems. EU Member States evidently have great interests in a highly educated population, particularly raising the educational attainment levels of the less educated groups of the population. But genuine equal access and high quality in education are not brought about by increased commercialisation of the education sector and increased trade in education services.

More information
ETUCE Statement on the European Commission's amended proposal for a Services Directive of 4 April 2006