Explaining public enterprise privatisation in the EU: a european or british policy?

This article seeks to identify the reasons behind privatisation programmes
undertaken by governments of the European Union (EU), particularly the EU-
15. The privatisation of public enterprises was one of the most important
economic and political reforms since the 1970s. This activity has attracted the
attention of scholars and there now exists an ample bibliography on the topic.
Despite the volume of studies conducted, there remains a lack of consensus
on the reasons why governments implemented privatisation programmes at
similar times in various countries. Three dominant explanatory models on EU
privatisation are offered in the literature. Firstly, the “British paradigm” which
assumes the ideological belief in market forces and private business played an
essential role in the path towards a global programme inspired by the British
experience. Secondly, a “multiple logics” approach, which claims that the UK
was an anomaly, not a model to emulate, since EU privatisation was diverse to
the extent there are few, if any, common logics. Thirdly, a “European paradigm”
which situates EU privatisation in the context of economic and political
integration, and highlights the importance of European Commission directives
when explaining the development of privatisation in the region. This article aims
to evaluate these three explanatory models using comparative empirical data on
EU privatisation by country and sector. It is found that integration requirements,
particularly in telecommunications, transport and other public service networks,
played a critical role in the motivation of governments to privatise. Europe thus
is an important explanatory factor when explaining EU privatisation.
Judith Clifton
Francisco Comín
Daniel Díaz Fuentes
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