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1Has European integration put an end to European states’ dirigisme? Was Brussels the site of the crisis of one of the French state’s great “legitimizing myths”  [1]: the notion of public service? The question arises again and again in any political debate around the privatization of “public service” enterprises. The recent controversies around the privatization of Aéroports de Paris and Engie (formerly GDF-Suez) and of the “new railway pact” that reformed the SNCF are yet more examples: any time statuses change, assets are sold off, or public enterprises like EDF, La Poste, SNCF, Air France, or the former GDF and France Télécom are opened up to competition, we are taken back to the political and legal controversy around the European roots of the “neoliberal turn.”

2It must be said that many scientific works have given weight to the idea that European integration has had an influence on the notions of “public service” and “public enterprise.” While some legal scholars argue that the European notion of “service of general interest” is not fully binding,  [2] others, drawing more on political science and employing a bottom-up approach, have shown the (indirect and brokered) influence of neoliberalism on European public policies.  [3] Some sociologists, many of them French-speaking, have monitored the effects of this European neoliberal turn on the management methods of public service enterprises “from the inside.”  [4]

3However, even though there is a growing consensus that sees Europe as a fundamental catalyst of the crisis in “French-style” public service, as has been indicated in two important publications with evocative titles from 2014  [5] and 2010,  [6] the historical and political conditions that enabled the European Union to become one of the key drivers of the “neoliberal turn in Europe”  [7] remain surprisingly vague and understudied. It is true that more historical works have attempted to trace the origins of European integration to understand why the “European project” ultimately became so susceptible to neoliberal ideas. Asserting that “the main success from the neoliberal point of view was finding a way to become institutionalized through the Treaty of Rome,”  [8] François Denord and Antoine Schwartz claim that the ultimate cause was the “prior existence of a transnational group that had long coalesced around an attachment to liberalism and to the European struggle.”  [9] This hypothesis aligns with the historical explanation of economist Robert Salais, who sees the birth of Europe as an “attempt to reconstruct a world order through markets.”  [10] This explanation, focused on the phenomenon’s origins, may not hold up if one agrees with Bastien François that a treaty, much like a constitution, “doesn’t mean anything.”  [11] If the seeds of a turn toward neoliberalism were already sown in the Treaty of Rome, why did we not feel their full-grown effects until thirty years later? Several historical studies, mostly from the field of political economy, have shown that the stage was not fully set for neoliberalism in 1958, highlighting the plural influences that gave rise to the specificities of “European regulation,” starting with the “Euro-mercantilist” current, which was still quite powerful in the 1960s.  [12]

4Since then, there have been some works on the “effects” and others on the “origins” of Europe’s neoliberal turn, but it appears that the longer historical process has gone unexamined. The same is true for the concrete modalities of how European public action regarding dirigisme and state interventionism was devised, especially during the period between the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958 and that of the “Single Market” in the 1980s, which is a kind of “dead zone.” This has left us without the tools we need to solve a key riddle: How is it possible that even during the 1960s and 1970s, when the public economy played a central role,  [13] the mixed economy model, so typical of European states,  [14] never appeared to catch on at the European level? In other words: How can we account for the fact that the public economy, which had a significant legal and political foundation in the “Inner Six” after the Second World War, was never recognized for its unique and specific role at the heart of the European project?

5In an attempt to solve this riddle, that is, to explain the relative failure to create a special status for the public economy within the nascent EEC, we will begin by examining the two key categories in the European lexicon on the matter: “public enterprise” and “service of general economic interest” (SGEI). By using an expanded idea of what constitutes an archive, as defined in this special report,  [15] we will attempt to shed light on the forgotten aspects of the construction of a European economic doxa, namely the potential alternatives that failed to establish themselves as legitimate “econo-political” categories.  [16] We will also show what the success of other European initiatives, such as competition law, owes to the specific relationship between forms of knowledge, experts, and politics that was formed at the time under a “strong program” of European law.  [17] In line with sociohistorical works,  [18] especially those of Francisco Roa Bastos, that have shown that clearly defined research topics are best when it comes to studying Europe,  [19] we will now look back on the historical conflicts over these categories during the early days of the EEC, and we will follow the threads that led to the failure to create a European public service doctrine, at a time when the state and parastatal sectors were thriving across Europe. By following the attempts to institutionalize these two categories within the European lexicon, we will reconstitute the transnational web of actors who were involved. We will follow the political, administrative, and academic movements that led to their “entry” into the field of European power. We will thus provide ourselves with the necessary tools for understanding the transnational social configuration and the different arenas where the fate of these two notions was decided. Using the idea of a “social world,” as developed by Howard Becker, we hypothesize that the failure to establish a common “European doctrine” of the public economy was due to the inability to build a network of lobbying groups and cooperations around such a doctrine, compared to the powerful world established around the concept of competition, which was entrenching itself professionally and academically within the very heart of the “European project.”

6To reconstruct this moment in history, this article will rely on a diverse array of source material: the official archives of the European Union, private archives (Centre européen de l’entreprise publique [CEEP] [European Center of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services and Services of general interest]; European League for Economic Cooperation [ELEC]), academic literature on the beginnings of European integration, gray literature from directorates-general of the Commission, as well as leading scholarly associations, press articles, and so on. With so many different sources, we chose to focus particularly on the emerging and already abundant constellation (in the fields of law, political science, international relations, economics, and so on) of “European journals”  [20] as the primary site for the development, consolidation, and standardization of a doctrine for the public economy. While the discussion space of these “European journals” is generally consensus-based and hardly critical of Europe, it is still a useful entry point for understanding (comparatively) the different forms of knowledge and information about Europe that were crystallizing and establishing themselves around the “European project.” With these various points of entry and our broad base of source material, we will be able to collect as much information as possible about the plurality of social, national, European, and international spaces involved in defining the relations between public enterprises and the European Communities, as well as the ways in which these spaces were built around transnational “social worlds.”

7Such is our frame of reference for trying to understand the relative failure of the notions of the SGEI and the public enterprise to establish themselves as legitimate categories of European public action. Present in early treaties, these categories, which recall the preponderant role of public enterprises at the national level at the time, were nonetheless never able to win a specific legal status for public enterprises at the European level that would set them apart from private enterprises. The first section of this article will show that the emergence of a European world of competition in the 1960s was driven, in part, by the desire of these actors to limit European dirigisme. The second section will describe the relative failure to establish a European world of the public economy in a way that would assert its unique qualities.

Limiting European dirigisme: The first victory for a European world of competition

8Our story begins in 1958. The Treaty of Rome, signed on March 25, 1957, went into effect the following January 1. A Community Europe began to be established relatively discreetly, since the project was still in its early stages and principally drew the attention of a few policymakers and certain groups that had mobilized during the long preceding negotiation phase.  [21] The work of François Denord and Antoine Schwartz has revealed the existence of a neoliberal coalition,  [22] but these authors overlook certain French movements whose inclusion tempers the idea that the entire national delegation had given itself over to this way of thinking. While it is true that the Common Market Treaty may seem, from certain points of view, like an attempt to establish a “strong program” of European competition–understood as a “constitutional” reading of the articles on competition as a binding, directly applicable body of law–it can also be interpreted differently, as an attempt to create a separate status for the public economy at the European level. This can be seen in Articles 90 and 222 of the EEC Treaty, which were narrowly secured by France as a result of pressure from various politicians–especially Guy Mollet, President of the Council, Paul Ramadier,  [23] Minister of the Economy and founding member of the Centre international de recherche et d’information sur l’économie publique, sociale et coopérative (CIRIEC) (International Center of Research and Information on the Public, Social, and Cooperative Economy),  [24] and one of his predecessors, André Philip, founder of CEEP–senior civil servants, such as Olivier Wormser and Francis Gutmann from Foreign Affairs and Claude Gruson from Economy,  [25] heads of public enterprises, including Alexandre Verret of Charbonnages de France and Louis Bour of SNCF (who was involved in the founding of CEEP), high-level engineers, such as Jacques Branger from the Caisse nationale des marchés de l’État (National Fund for State Markets) (a future member of CEEP), economics professors such as Maurice Byé and Alfred Sauvy, and trade unionists.  [26] This movement was sparked in particular by Minister Christian Pineau asking the Economic Council to study the Spaak Report.

9The wording of articles 90  [27] and 222  [28]of the EEC Treaty was therefore a kind of “operational compromise”  [29]on the status of the European public economy. Reading them together is just as likely to lead to a “liberal” interpretation, with the “public” and “private” sectors subject to the same competition laws,  [30] as to a “dirigiste” interpretation that would give the public economy a “separate” status.  [31] Ultimately, nothing was resolved by the treaty, and the question remained open for the proponents of these different “European projects,” which came into conflict very early on. First, we will look at the groups of actors that came together in opposition to the transposition of dirigisme at the European level. To cast competition as superior to the intervention of European states, they used another “strong program”–that of a constitutional reading of European law (in terms of primacy, direct effect, and immediate applicability)–in order to promote the idea of a “European economic constitution” that would include a fundamental principle of equality between the public and private sectors under competition law.

DG Competition as a bulwark

10During the negotiations of the Common Market Treaty, France undeniably emerged as the champion of the “strong program” of the public economy–to such an extent that Germany, through Minister of Economic Affairs Ludwig Erhard, expressed its displeasure at the large number of concessions made to France in terms of social harmonization. These Franco-German tensions also arose during the discussions over the nomination of the first group of European commissioners. According to Katja Seidel,  [32] an initial plan was to assign Robert Marjolin a portfolio that would cover Economy, Finance, and Competition, reflecting the French position that competition was a rather minor part of political economy.  [33] After Germany rejected this plan, a compromise was eventually found to split the portfolio, with Robert Marjolin keeping Economy and Finance, while Competition was assigned to Hans von der Groeben, whom the federal government directly asked to make his directorate-general (DG) a “fortress against French dirigisme and planning.”  [34]

11A former Director of European Affairs for the German Ministry of the Economy, the new Commissioner for Competition was one of the co-authors of the Spaak Report, which had been sharply criticized by some French politicians for its excessive liberalism.  [35] Born into nobility, von der Groeben studied law and economics at Germany’s most prestigious universities (Berlin, Bonn, and Göttingen). His career as a senior civil servant began in the 1930s and took a “European turn” when he was recruited by Ludwig Erhard. A member of the European Movement, close with the leaders of the CDU, and a fervent partisan of ordoliberalism, his views on Europe acted as a bridge between the minister’s fundamentalist approach and the vision of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, which was more colored by Catholic social doctrine. Under his leadership, DG Competition went from being a “small, quiet, and ineffective corner of Community administration”  [36] to becoming the focal point for various types of projects (political, administrative, professional, academic). H. von der Groeben used the DG to create an efficient network for promoting a “house doctrine” on the status of the public economy. Beyond the historical works that have mostly studied DG Competition from the inside, it is also important to investigate the German commissioner’s activism in assembling a heterogeneous mix of actors to counterbalance the threat posed by French dirigisme. The commissioner’s strategy used the law as a resource to promote an undifferentiated status for the public economy within the Common Market. To this end, the “strong program” of competition may be seen as a “weak program” for the public economy, structured around three key factors, one of which is borrowed from the “strong program” of European law: a European economic constitution (a key part of the “strong program” of European law is its constitutional value or primacy); equal treatment of public and private enterprises by competition authorities; and European indifference to the legal structures of enterprises. H. von der Groeben used the strength of European law to impose an alignment of public and private enterprises across Europe, under the authority of the Commission. This strategy was propelled by a “house doctrine” of public-private alignment and the use of experts to spread this doctrine.

A “house doctrine” of public-private alignment

12The validation of a “house doctrine” of public-private alignment stemming from Europe’s “economic constitution” was achieved through the initial imposition of a “roadmap” for competition policy that served as a warning to dirigiste states, and through a flurry of academic works that enshrined this policy of “competition” at the heart of a Europe of direct effect law and legal primacy that was being constructed in Luxembourg and Brussels.  [37]

13One of von der Groeben’s first initiatives as the head of DG Competition was to create a “roadmap” that defined five “constitutional” principles to guide the development of “competition policy.”  [38] Destined to receive the support of the national representatives gathered at the Council, it secured this backing in February 1960. These principles approved by the states could be used by DG officials to back their approach to the “problem” of the public economy within a common market. Drawn up by the commissioner and his Dutch director-general, Pieter verLoren van Themaat, the principles were widely disseminated through the journal Opéra mundi Europe,  [39]at the latter’s initiative. It is clear that the problem of harm to competition caused by public economic interventions was far from “ignored”  [40]in the program that these two men established. These principles state unequivocally that “it is necessary to suppress with the same rigor and according to the same principles the different governmental or private practices that tend to hinder or distort competition and that have similar repercussions for the economy.”  [41]

14During the 1960s, several representatives from DG Competition worked to create an initial framework for a “European” legal “doctrine” on the status of the public economy. Positioning themselves as experts on the rules of the treaty, the commissioner, his director-general, Hermann Schumacher (director of the Cartels and Monopolies office), as well as the lower-ranked Aurelio Pappalardo and Jacques Vandamme, all collaborated to write manuals and articles for scientific journals, to participate in various studies, and to teach, among other things. If we compare the legal interpretations of the status of the public economy of von der Groeben  [42] and of Pappalardo,  [43] a young Italian civil servant, we can identify the outlines of a “house doctrine.” These analyses both focus on a central principle, that of equal treatment for public and private enterprises within the Common Market under the cover of competition policy, which translates into a general prohibition on states distorting competition. In this doctrine, it is essential to promote the “primacy” of European law in order to establish that the Commission has control over the “public” and “private” categories of the European economy, that it has general binding oversight powers on states and public enterprises, and that in the appreciation of the margin of exception granted to SGEIs, the Community interest that it defends should supersede the general interest defined at the national level. Ultimately, many DG Competition officials adopted the “house doctrine” because it legitimized their general supervisory role over European competition and granted them political authority over states. Developed deep within DG Competition, the “house doctrine” was most often disseminated through the new “European” publications, including current affairs journals like Le droit et les affaires and academic journals like the Common Market Law Review and the Revue du Marché commun, which were key channels for disseminating and validating this “house doctrine” of public-private alignment.

The mobilization of experts to prevent public enterprises from becoming “zombies”[44]

15The recruitment of a network of experts at DG Competition was another way to sign more actors up to its “house doctrine.” The historical work of Katja Seidel has shown that frequent contacts with a community of academics and experts were a particular aspect of the “work culture” that gradually became institutionalized at DG Competition in the 1960s.  [45] The observation also applies to the European Commission as a whole, which has traditionally used experts to secure alliances and mobilize support, as informal negotiators, and as a tool for socialization to Europe, allowing the Commission to more easily “manage” its environment.  [46] DG Competition used expertise in several ways. Recruiting experts, for example, allowed it to learn more about specific national situations, making up for its lack of its own resources. Hiring Jelle Zijlstra to produce a report entitled Economic Policy and Problems of Competition in the EEC and the Member Countries of the EEC[47] showed that it was also worthwhile to involve recognized professional figures in reinforcing its doctrine. A liberal economist educated at the prestigious Rotterdam School of Economics, Zijlstra, who signed his report as “Professor, former Minister of Economic Affairs, and former Minister of Finance,” was a member of the Dutch Senate and an associate professor of public finance at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He was well known to Director-General verLoren van Themaat, who had been his special advisor at the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

16In the report, the opinions of national experts are briefly summarized, and it is Zijlstra’s conclusions and recommendations to the Commission that are given prominence. Now publicly available, the study displays a generally hostile attitude to the public economy within the Common Market, a perfect echo of what von der Groeben was trying to communicate through his team. Of course, the preface to this document specifies in boilerplate language that “the publication of this study does not imply that the Commission shares all of the opinions contained within.”  [48] It does, however, insist that the study will be “highly useful for its future action” and that the author’s ideas about “the public sector dimension” will provide “very interesting viewpoints on these questions.”  [49] With its prestigious author and official dissemination, the report served to promote the “house doctrine.” In France, it was discussed in a European news bulletin by an economics journalist named Jacques Nême. After reading Zijlstra’s thoughts on the public sector, he came away with two warnings that he highlighted in his article. The first underlined the need to regularly monitor any trends in the development of this way of thinking. The second focused on the “real danger that some public enterprises will become ‘zombies’.”  [50] Borrowing Zijlstra’s expression, these “zombies” refer to public enterprises that are kept artificially alive by public authorities who refuse to expose them to market forces.

17During the 1960s, the promotion of a “house doctrine” on the status of the public economy within the Common Market was DG Competition’s best weapon against the transposition of French dirigisme within the European framework. As part of a push toward the liberal harmonization of the Common Market, this “house doctrine” used the law as a resource (at the same time reinforcing the law), along with the emerging “constitutional” view of European law, characterized by its “primacy,” in order to impose a concrete mechanism for aligning the public economy with the private sector. DG Competition found many allies who shared this attitude in the world of business, and especially among lawyers specializing in competition law.

Fending off the “Trojan horse” of dirigisme in European treaties

18From the very beginning of European integration, various groups pushed for a liberal interpretation of European treaties, under a “strong program” of competition. They were the first ones to formulate a legal doctrine for the public economy at the European level. By supporting the emerging vision of the primacy and direct effect of European law, they helped to naturalize a European competition law that was indifferent to the “public” or “private” status of economic agents. These efforts were both academic and professional: the most prolific author was Arved Deringer, whose analyses inspired many of his colleagues specialized in competition law to follow him in joining the Fédération internationale pour le droit européen (FIDE) (International Federation of European Law), which had its own connections to DG Competition.  [51] Another form of academic contribution also left its mark on this nascent legal doctrine: a conference held in Brussels in 1963 on “Competition between the Public and Private Sectors,” inspired by a Belgian lawyer and organized by the Ligue internationale contre la concurrence déloyale (LICCD) (International League against Unfair Competition), with support from FIDE.

Pioneering academic work by a renowned European lawyer

19Many of the authors who participated in developing this “doctrine” in the 1960s were legal scholars, but Deringer was the most prolific, the most exhaustive, and by far the most cited for his analyses of the status of the public economy. While a study by Guillaume Sacriste has already discussed his activism in the European Parliament to lay down the principles that would later give European law its power, further investigation reveals another aspect related to the intensity of his academic production. This will allow us to better understand the actions of this “great man”  [52] of the legal commission in his role as a specialist lawyer.

20The career and personality of Deringer illustrate a perfect case of those “international brokers”  [53] who, by accumulating strategic positions at both the national and European levels, managed to play the key role of intermediary and broker in European governance.  [54] Deringer studied law at three German universities, including the prestigious Humboldt University of Berlin, and at the University of Geneva, and he spoke four languages (German, English, French, and Russian). Around forty years old when the Treaty of Rome was signed, he pursued a dual career as a lawyer and a politician. A specialist in competition law, he was a partner at Alfred Gleiss’s firm from 1952 to 1961, before co-founding his own firm, Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund (which later became Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, a member of the “magic circle” of international law firms headquartered in London).  [55] He often worked with large German and American companies. At the same time, he was a member of the CDU and sat in the Bundestag from 1957 to 1969 and the European Parliament from 1958 to 1970. The fact that he was sent as part of the German delegation to the Chicago Conference in 1958 (to try to establish an international antitrust law after the failure of the Havana Charter) shows how close he was to the leaders of the federal economy, especially Minister of Economic Affairs Ludwig Erhard, who became Chancellor in 1963.

21Deringer laid the initial groundwork for the legal doctrine of public enterprises and European SGEIs. His contribution included two series of comprehensive studies  [56] and a specific study  [57] on the status of the public economy. His entire analysis rested on the fundamental premise that public and private enterprises should be treated equally under European competition law. This starting point determined his entire way of interpreting the key expressions of this status. He asserted that the arrangement should constitute a mechanism for creating transparency around the behavior of public enterprises, making it possible to sanction them and thereby achieve a liberal harmonization of structures in the Common Market. Deringer’s “strong program” of competition thus drew specifically on another element of the “strong program” of European law: direct effect. Direct effect was invoked to authorize private enterprises to file suit over the behavior of public enterprises and to strengthen the regulatory role of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

22These theories appeared in some of the first “European journals”: the German Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb, the French Revue du Marché commun, and the English Common Market Law Review. This last review, which published one of Deringer’s studies on SGEIs, was produced in cooperation with the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (an independent body that would today be called a think tank) and the Europa Institute (Leiden University), and was published in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States, and Belgium by four different publishers.  [58] First published in Germany, the series of studies overseen by Deringer was published in French in the Revue du Marché commun, founded by Edmond Epstein with significant outside support.  [59] These journals were edited by leading figures and had a wide audience, offering another explanation for the success of Deringer’s ideas in the legal doctrine. Standing at the intersection of European political, economic, and legal spaces, Deringer was a “great man” of the European Parliament and an active member of FIDE who employed a specific rhetoric of assigning fundamental human rights to economic agents. In line with the “house doctrine,” his very thorough analyses of Article 90 of the EEC Treaty were used to support this doctrine. He was also far from alone in wanting to neutralize European dirigisme in the treaty texts.

The doctrinal activism of the LICCD

23At a 1963 symposium, the International League against Unfair Competition (LICCD) followed Deringer in using the “doctrine” associated with the status of the public economy to try to tame the “Trojan horse” of dirigisme in European treaties. This symposium brought together European legal experts around a plan to align the public economy on the private sector model, which was then disseminated widely thanks to the strength of the networks it brought together. While some historical and sociological works have studied the role of large employers’ advocacy groups in the early development of the European Community,  [60] the LICCD has flown surprisingly under the radar. It was, however, involved very early on and very closely.  [61] Probably in concert with members of the European League for Economic Cooperation (ELEC),  [62] a leading institution of the European Movement,  [63] and with assistance from FIDE, which helped it to recruit experts, the LICCD presented the “problem” of “Competition between the Public and Private Sectors” at a symposium that left an indelible mark on the emerging legal doctrine.

24Little work has been done on the LICCD, founded in 1930, so we have had to draw on other sources. Known today as the Ligue internationale du droit de la concurrence (International League of Competition Law), it presents itself as an association dedicated to “studying the conditions under which the market operates, especially those related to competition law,” to “promoting free, healthy, and honest competition,” and to “fighting unfair, illegal, or abusive practices domestically and internationally.”  [64] It was founded at the same time as “a series of other national groups and similar groups established in more than forty countries”  [65] and, according to an important Belgian employers’ publication, it benefited from “the active collaboration of industrialists, retailers, leaders of professional associations, national and international senior civil servants, lawyers, university professors, economists, sociologists, corporate lawyers, industrial property consultants, etc.”  [66] The LICCD held an international conference every two years, which would issue “recommendations” for the “relevant authorities” on two current issues. The association’s rotating international presidency was held in 1962 by Francesco Coppola d’Anna, an Italian legal scholar with close ties to Confindustria (Italy’s largest employers’ union), then in 1964 by the Belgian Pierre-Alex Franck, the man who organized the special LICCD symposium on competition between the public and private sectors. To organize this event, which brought together many different legal scholars and required large-scale preparations, LICCD representatives reached out to the leading European legal minds at FIDE.

25Held in Brussels on March 5 and 6, 1963, the LICCD’s symposium on “Competition between the Public and Private Sectors” aimed to assess European law in order to draw from it an interpretation that would suit the mechanism of public-private alignment that its members wanted to see imposed in the Common Market. Without exception, the assembled experts all considered that a principle of equal treatment for public and private enterprises under competition law was central to the status of the public economy. In concrete terms, this meant that all industrial or commercial activity fell strictly and by principle under the regime of competition. The LICCD’s “strong program” of competition highlights another aspect of the “strong program” of European law: its direct applicability, or, in other words, its immediate effect without requiring transposition into national law. This aspect was used to encourage swifter legal actions not only against public enterprises but also against states. The LICCD’s doctrine therefore insisted on the roles of the two “independent” institutions  [67]within the EEC system–the Commission and the Court of Justice–as the regulators of the public economy, acting as “guardians” of European general interest.

26The LICCD symposium was a great success and a point of pride for its organizers due to the resources they dedicated to holding this academic conference that was open to the general public, the prestige of the speakers they were able to attract, and the large-scale communication efforts that followed. The proceedings of the symposium were widely shared and disseminated through the national journals with which the members of the LICCD were associated. The analyses of the status of the public economy that came from this symposium became the other quasi-essential reference point for the legal doctrine. The success of this symposium would not have been possible without the parallel success of the “strong program” of European law, which the LICCD also supported actively.

27Located at the intersection of the professional and academic worlds, the LICCD symposium and the work of Deringer marked the rapid emergence of a shared doctrine of competition built on the principle that the “public” and “private” sectors should be subject to the same antitrust laws. Supported by the ideas of the primacy and direct effect of European law that were being formed at the same time, each focused in its own way on the “constitutional” and binding nature of the undifferentiated status of the public economy desired by von der Groeben. The constitutionalist vision of Union law that was developing in Luxembourg and Brussels therefore formed the common social and cognitive basis for the various actors who wanted to incorporate the public economy within a functionalist mechanism of liberal harmonization.

Promoting the unique qualities of public enterprises: The initial failure of a European world of the public economy

28As this vision of a Europe of competition law became entrenched both at the heart and on the periphery of its institutions, the first critical studies emerged, pointing out the risks of such a vision for the public economy. The French movement in favor of including a status for the public economy in the EEC Treaty persisted and diversified, with the creation of a large federation for public enterprise (CEEP) dedicated to representing the public economy in European forums. However, those that wanted a specific status for the public economy had trouble coalescing around a shared platform. There was a failure to counter-mobilize, that is, to create a European world of the public economy. Unlike the proponents of a constitutionalist vision of competition law, the supporters of the public economy were working with a diverse array of forms of information and advocacy groups relating to the idiosyncratic models of the “public sector” specific to each of the six member states, and they were therefore unable to “form a world” at the European level.

Criticizing the “European project” of opening the public economy up to competition

29As we have seen, the first transnational space for discussing the European public economy was marked by the overwhelming presence of legal scholars and actors from the emerging world of competition regulation. The heads of European public enterprises partially adapted to equal treatment for public and private enterprises under competition law, helping to legitimize its inclusion in the legal frameworks of the emerging European project. This transnational space also created enough consensus to brush aside more severe criticisms of the “European project” of undifferentiation for the public economy that stemmed from the “strong program” of competition law. This recalls how, in European debate, the speakable and the unspeakable depend on the consensus formed between different elites interested in European integration.  [68] However, simply because a European economic doxa emerged, that does not mean that it faced no opposition. Arguments that were more critical of Europe were produced at the national level, but, since they were relatively confined to these spaces, they were less able to create the relations of force and meaning necessary to “form a world.” Any investigation of the counter-mobilizations of the public economy must therefore focus on the national level, and we will focus here on the French case.

Claude-Albert Colliard, an isolated European legal scholar?

30In the first legal doctrine of the 1960s, the only analyses of the status of the public economy that openly contradicted the ideas developed by Deringer were those of the Frenchman Claude-Albert Colliard. Although he was well integrated within the leading European academic spaces, this professor of public law from the University of Paris appears to have been relatively isolated in this transnational debate, dominated as it was by proponents of the “strong program” of competition. A member of the French branch of FIDE, the co-founder of a “European journal” and an institute of comparative law, and a professor at the University Study Center for the European Communities, Colliard made several contributions to this debate.  [69] According to his analyses, economic equality means that Europe must recognize, alongside the principle of competition associated with economic freedom, a principle of regulation to make up for the shortcomings of the former. Regulation must be put in place as part of a prospective common economic policy that incorporates the general interest through requirements and guidelines issued to public enterprises. His ideas were similar to some currents of European thought expressed within the Commission, especially by Giuseppe Petrilli, the first Commissioner for Social Affairs, by some members of the Medium-Term Economic Policy Committee, created in 1964, or by the members of CEEP, all of whom however preferred to speak in terms of political economy. Thus, despite his connections in the nascent European academia, Colliard, by defending the unique aspects of the public economy, was a rare case among the many legal scholars debating its status at the time. His insistence on the role of public enterprises in meeting collective needs recalls a particularity of the discipline of public law in France,  [70] which, following 1945, was the product of the osmosis between economic policymakers and large national enterprises.  [71] Finally, his presence on the European stage was only temporary; he returned to his preferred topic of interest–international law–as soon as he had the professional opportunity to do so in 1970.  [72]

André Marchal, a modernizing economist on the fringes of CEEP

31In the doctrine around the status of the public economy at the time, any analyses that were not legal in nature tended to draw from political economy. Such works include the commentaries on the status of the public economy in the Common Market by the economist André Marchal (especially two articles in the Revue économique[73]) and a few contributions from members of CEEP and?CIRIEC.  [74] These contributions stand out in their relatively harsh critique of equal treatment for public and private enterprises under competition law, leaving their author somewhat on the margins of this debate. For Marchal, such equal treatment was impossible, given the imperative need to preserve the public sector’s specific function of social redistribution. His emphasis on the need for a “strong program” of “a solidary Europe”  [75] that would protect workers and public services set him apart from other authors who sought to promote discipline in the European space. The fragmentation of this field explains why political economy was unable to break through in the current of European studies. The fact that Marchal was so alone among European political economy thinkers at the time illustrates the initial and lasting failure to establish a “strong program” of a “social Europe”  [76] that would go beyond social protection and include SGEIs.

Lucien Nizard, a political scientist on the sidelines of the transnational debate on the public economy

32Lucien Nizard is a good example of someone who occupied a marginal position in the European space under study, even though his first “European” analyses (Europe was not however his main topic of study) inspired a new current of critical analysis of European public policy in France, including in particular the works of Bruno Jobert and Pierre Müller. The founder of the Centre d’étude et de recherche sur l’administration économique et l’aménagement du territoire (CERAT) (Center for the Analysis of Regional Administration) in 1963, Nizard was one of the first researchers in France to observe the state as a penetrable object using an approach blending political science and the sociology of professional groups. In an article in the journal Analyse & Prévision in 1967,  [77] he openly denounces any European integration that would privilege market logic and reduce the interventionist capacities of member states. The marginality of these ideas is a testament to the isolation of both their author and his discipline in the European space. Rejecting both the model of “French-style planning” and that of “European competition” promoted by the DG, Nizard was critical of the way the heads of public enterprises had been relatively accommodating of the principle of alignment that stemmed from the “strong program” of competition. His brief involvement in this debate reveals a discipline that struggled to take root in the landscape of European studies.  [78] While his ideas were innovative and stimulating in terms of research, they were only taken further in France many years later, when a distinct European strand finally took shape within political studies.

33These different critical contributions were more or less well received in the European space depending on how the academic disciplines were structured at both the European and national level. Colliard, for example, was part of a discipline that shunned involvement in legal debates. Although it was favored by members of CEEP, the register of political economy was generally used in studies that were not particularly critical of Europe. Finally, the initial failure to establish European studies as a separate branch of political science led to Europe being temporarily treated as a minor subject within the discipline.

Bringing the public economy together within one large European federation

34In 1960, CEEP was founded to promote the unique features of the status of the public economy within the Common Market, led by former French Minister of the Economy André Philip, supported in Belgium by Paul-Henri Spaak, in Italy by Giuseppe Petrilli, and in Germany by the members of Gesellschaft für öffentliche Wirtschaft (GÖW).  [79] By tracing the origins of CEEP, we will try to understand the reasons for its relative failure to act as a focal point for a European world of the public economy. In doing so, we highlight once again the potential of archival research. By combing through the CEEP archives, we were able to unearth descriptions of alternative Europes, possibilities that were ultimately discarded in favor of the established doxa. The attempt to bring the public economy together within a European federation was only partially successful, given the difficulties in reaching an agreement on the organization’s identity and strategy, which revealed the obstacles preventing the emergence of a European world of the public economy.

The difficulty of bringing together the public economy at the European level

35CEEP brought together German, Belgian, French, Italian, and Dutch figures who believed that the public sector could help drive a more dirigiste model of European integration. While the public enterprises involved with CEEP shared certain economic and legal characteristics, they were rooted in very different national political contexts. France and Italy were the only states in the EEC with large nationalized industries. In both countries, the public sector extended to several areas of economic activity. France, however, stood out due to its monopolistic national enterprises, while the Italian model was characterized by large public holding companies, such as the Istituto per la ricostruzione industriale (IRI) and the Ente nazionale idrocarburi (ENI). The other member states had not nationalized any industries, but they still had large public sectors, even if national-scale enterprises were much rarer. The composite nature of the European public economy landscape made it harder to engage the public enterprises of “petite Europe.” A national branch of CEEP was promptly opened in France in 1963, followed by branches in Belgium and Italy.  [80] The situation was more complicated in the other states. While a provisional agreement was reached with the GÖW to act as a kind?of interim branch, it took a long time for a genuine national branch to open in Germany–this was also the case in Luxembourg and the Netherlands.  [81] The make-up of CEEP’s first management team also created similar problems. The French delegates, who were senior officials from the Caisse nationale des marchés de l’État, EDF, and a national insurance company, as well as representatives from concession-granting public bodies, formed a large sub-block. Already a player in French politics as the motor of economic recovery, EDF was, for a long time, the driving force behind CEEP. Generally speaking, French public enterprises had no problem joining the national branch. The Italian delegates were another important sub-group within CEEP, given the economic power of the enterprises they represented and therefore their role in the national recovery policy. Most other countries were largely represented by public enterprises. German companies were represented within CEEP by administrators from the national postal and telecommunications services, the national railway, and a public credit institution, as well as members of the GÖW. However, Germany also had semi-public national holding companies in the energy and transport sectors that were not represented within CEEP. The GÖW, which ran the German branch for a long time, was more of a scientific organization than a professional one. Similarly, Belgian enterprises were represented both by the heads of public enterprises (the Société nationale de credit à l’industrie [SNCI] [National Industrial Credit Company] and the Société nationale des chemins de fer [SNCB] [National Railway Company]) and by intercommunal administrators and members of CIRIEC, a scientific organization. SNCI and SNCB are two relatively unique examples of public enterprises that were owned entirely by the Belgian state. The largest mixed-ownership company, the airline SABENA, participated in CEEP activities without sending a delegate to the governing body. The postal service, the telegraph and telephone authority, and state-owned public services were not CEEP members. Generally speaking, public enterprises from the Netherlands were not very involved in the working groups. The highly varied landscape of the public economy across Europe was therefore reflected in the representation of public enterprises within CEEP, which brought together an eclectic mix of professionals from varying national political, economic, bureaucratic, and academic backgrounds.

36That is why it was difficult for the first delegates to reach a consensus on CEEP’s initial mission. They were at least able to agree on action in two areas. First, building a network of European public enterprises and cultivating the expertise to represent them as a European social partner to various consultative bodies throughout the EEC. Second, developing and disseminating an expert statistical report on the phenomenon of the European public enterprise, classifying the different categories of public enterprise and objectively defining its position in the Common Market. The goal was to push back against the idea that the very existence of the public sector harms the principle of competition. For the heads of public enterprises, the principle of equal treatment for public and private enterprises was therefore not necessarily a disadvantage.

The uneasy creation of a common European defense strategy for public enterprises

37Within CEEP, the development of a strategy for defending public enterprises against the “strong program” of competition was not an easy one. Studying the discussions within the first working commissions created at the start of the 1960s allows us to identify the motives and tactics at play. The first commission was charged with taking a statistical inventory of European public enterprises. The other was tasked with studying Article 90 of the EEC Treaty. The way things played out in each group is indicative of how CEEP representatives generally engaged with the doctrinal debate on the status of the public economy within the Common Market. While the “inventory” working commission met with success, the “Article 90” commission did not initially produce any concrete results.

38The first representatives agreed that CEEP’s actions should be based on statistical economics. Tasked from the beginning with an ambitious project, the “inventory” working commission became a shining example. Its initial results were shared widely, notably in a 1967 work that highlighted that CEEP’s goal was to “one day define the role that public sectors can and should play in the Europe of tomorrow.”  [82] This success reveals CEEP’s preference for an objective approach to European public enterprises, using statistical tools rather than European law as a technique for unification. However, in Europe, the law is often an invaluable resource, appearing to dominate any viewpoints related to political economy. Yet, political economy is a shared framework that can be seen as more consensual than the legal register, which involves addressing diverse national traditions. While the “inventory” commission, with its statistical approach based on political economy, was taking root within CEEP, the same could not be said of the expert commission on Article 90 of the EEC Treaty.

39To start with, most of the delegates wanted to keep CEEP out of any legal debates. The creation of an “Article 90” working commission, however, showed that they believed that the future of public enterprises depended on how this article was interpreted. Right away, discussions led to major disagreements, highlighting the divided opinions over the best defense strategy in the European context. The German delegates wanted CEEP to openly take a position on the legal interpretation of the treaty’s provisions relative to public enterprises. They wanted CEEP to publicly support a common interpretation that would constitute an alternative to the discourses that defended private interests (in their exchanges, they specifically talk about the LICCD symposium). The French and Italian delegates believed that such an approach should be avoided. According to them, CEEP should not try to shed light on the meaning of this article, which depended on political changes that were hard to predict. It should simply try to anticipate the concrete problems posed for public enterprises and suggest practical solutions to national and European leaders. Most CEEP delegates refused to transform the organization into a lobbying group with a legal interpretation of the treaty that favored public enterprises. Confident in the diplomatic efforts of their respective national authorities, they preferred that CEEP remain in its role as a body representing public enterprises to the European Communities. These first representatives of the European public economy were wary of public enterprises taking a legal approach because it might lead to tensions in the political relations with their national governments. It should be noted, however, that they were later forced to admit that their initial decision was ill-advised, and they began to gradually revise their strategy. The fact that the “Article 90” working commission was reconstituted as a group examining “problems of competition” at the end of the 1960s was the first sign of this.

40Because the doctrinal debate over the status of the public economy in the Common Market was essentially played out on legal grounds, the constellation of groups around CEEP was relatively absent or barely audible. What is more, some actors were not firmly opposed to the principle of equal treatment espoused by DG Competition, since it might become politically advantageous for public enterprises to have their management somewhat emancipated from the oversight of political authorities.

41By re-examining the historical conflicts around the notions of the “public enterprise” and the “service of general economic interest” present at the birth of the European Community, this article has explored the fraught development of a European public service doctrine in the 1960s. This failure was partially due to the crystallization of a “strong program” of competition enshrined within European treaties thanks to the work of an emerging transnational world of European competition, and to the difficulties in forming a European world of the public economy that could provide an alternative political conception of Europe. By studying the symbolic forms of Europe envisioned according to these categories, we have been able to reveal how some ideas were able to be adopted into law, while other alternative conceptions of Europe were discarded and dismissed as “unorthodox” within the European Archives. Ultimately, this study has aimed to show how certain specific strands of European “governing knowledge” helped to institutionalize the new political order through the mobilization and investment of a wide variety of actors who more or less deliberately set themselves up as the “entrepreneurs of Europe.” Finally, this article has made it possible to question certain received ideas about the relationship between Europe and the public economy at the dawn of European Community integration. It has also shown how the “European Market” first transmitted its “institutional model” to Europe, characterized by the presence of legally independent institutions responsible for interpreting the general interest of the “European project,” its “specific form of political legitimacy based on expert competence,” and its “specialized public space” built around the professional figures of the detached national expert, the lawyer, and the consultant lobbyist.  [83]


  • [1]
    Jacques Chevallier, “Le service public: du mythe à la réalité,” Projet, no. 188 (1984): 876-96, here 879. Translator’s note: Unless otherwise stated, all translations of cited foreign-language material in this article are our own.
  • [2]
    See Ulla Neergaard et al., eds., Social Services of General Interest in the EU (The Hague: TMC Asser Press, 2013); Gráinne de Búrca, ed., EU Law and the Welfare State. In Search of Solidarity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Tony Prosser, The Limits of Competition Law. Markets and Public Services (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • [3]
    See Amandine Crespy and Pauline Ravinet, “Les avatars du néo-libéralisme dans la fabrique des politiques européennes,” Gouvernement et action publique 3, no. 2 (2014): 9-29.
  • [4]
    See special report “Modernisation des entreprises publiques,” Sociétés contemporaines 97, no. 1 (2015), especially Alex Alber, “Changer les têtes plutôt que les mentalités? La ‘modernisation’ de la SNCF par l’ouverture de son marché du travail d’encadrement,” 49-77; Emmanuel Martin, “Les sciences sociales au service de la ‘modernisation’ dans la formation de l’encadrement à EDF,” 79-99; Nadège Vezinat, “Stratégies, formes et acteurs de la modernisation postale. Regard sur la financiarisation des PTT,” 25-48.
  • [5]
    Patrick Le Galès and Nadège Vezinat, eds., L’État recomposé (Paris: PUF, 2014).
  • [6]
    Laurent Bonelli and Willy Pelletier, eds., L’État démantelé. Enquête sur une révolution silencieuse (Paris: La Découverte, 2010).
  • [7]
    Bruno Jobert, ed., Le tournant néo-libéral en Europe. Idées et recettes dans les pratiques gouvernementales (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994).
  • [8]
    François Denord and Antoine Schwartz, “L’économie (très) politique du traité de Rome,” Politix 89, no. 1 (2010) 35-56, here 55. Online
  • [9]
    Ibid., 38.
  • [10]
    Robert Salais, Le viol d’Europe. Enquête sur la disparition d’une idée (Paris: PUF, 2013), 28.
  • [11]
    François Bastien, Naissance d’une constitution. La Cinquième République, 1958-1962 (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1996), 255.
  • [12]
    See Hubert Buch-Hansen and Angela Wigger, The Politics of European Competition Regulation. A Critical Political Economy Perspective (London: Routledge, 2011); Laurent Warlouzet, Governing Europe in a Globalizing World. Neoliberalism and Its Alternatives Following the 1973 Oil Crisis (London: Routledge, 2017).
  • [13]
    This can be seen in the statistics collected by CEEP in Les entreprises publiques dans la Communauté économique européenne (Paris: Dunod, 1967); as well as in a wider body of literature on this phenomenon from the period: See the comparative and single-country studies listed in Jean Meynaud, “Aspects of Public Enterprise To-day (A Bibliographical Study),” Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics 32, no. 2 (1961): 239-60; Allan-Randolph Brewer-Carias, Les entreprises publiques en droit comparé (Paris: A. Pedone; Caracas: Central University of Venezuela, 1968); Georges Langrod, “L’entreprise publique en droit administratif comparé,” Revue internationale de droit comparé 8, no. 2 (1956): 213-31.
  • [14]
    See Alain Bergounioux and Bernard Manin, Le régime social-démocrate (Paris: PUF, 1989); Jean-Dominique Lafay and Jacques Lecaillon, L’économie mixte (Paris: PUF, 1992).
  • [15]
    See the introductory article to this special report by Francisco Roa Bastos and Antoine Vauchez.
  • [16]
    Antoine Vauchez, “La politique (tout) contre le Marché? Jalons pour une sociohistoire de l’écono-politique de l’Union européenne,” Idées économiques et sociales 179, no. 1 (2015): 19-29.
  • [17]
    The expression is taken from Antoine Vauchez, L’Union par le droit. L’invention d’un programme institutionnel pour l’Europe (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2013). The key elements of the “strong program” of European law are a treaty-constitution, a unified and hierarchical legal order that gives supremacy to Community law, and a Court of Justice that is at the center of an institutional system.
  • [18]
    François Buton and Nicolas Mariot, eds., Pratiques et méthodes de la socio-histoire (Paris: PUF, 2009).
  • [19]
    Francisco Roa Bastos, “Political Categories as Methodological ‘Proxies’ for the Study of ‘European Studies’: The Example of the ‘Political Parties at the European Level’,” Position Paper, “Savoirs d’Europe — Europawissen,” Strasbourg, November 23-24, 2017.
  • [20]
    These “European” publications include the following twenty-one titles: Annuaire européen; Bulletin du Centre européen de la culture; Bulletin du Mouvement gauche européenne; Bulletin européen; Cahiers de droit européen; Common Market; Common Market Law Review; Le droit et les affaires; Le droit européen; Enseignement complémentaire; L’Européen; L’Europe en formation; Europe service; Fédéralisme européen; Journal of Common Market Studies; Opéra mundi Europe; Les problèmes de l’Europe; Revue du Marché commun; Revue internationale du Marché commun; Revue trimestrielle de droit européen; Vers l’Europe.
  • [21]
    Historians often refer to this as the “European revival”: a cycle of negotiations beginning with the Beyen Plan, or Benelux Memorandum, and continuing with the Messina Conference (June 1955), the Brussels Intergovernmental Committee (July 1955-April 1956) (or the Spaak Committee, which published the summary Spaak Report, accepted as a basis for negotiating future treaties), and the Venice Conference (May 1956), culminating in the Intergovernmental Conference of Val-Duchesse (June 1956-March 1957) and the signature and ratification of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), which created the Common Market.
  • [22]
    Denord and Schwartz, “L’économie (très) politique.”
  • [23]
    See Laurent Warlouzet, Le choix de la CEE par la France: L’Europe économique en débat de Mendès France à de Gaulle (1955-1969) (Paris: Comité pour l’histoire économique et financière de la France, 2011), 68-69.
  • [24]
    Launched by the Frenchman Edgard Milhaud, CIRIEC was officially founded in 1953 after its first international conference, and its headquarters were moved to Belgium in 1957. According to its statutes, its mission is to “undertake and promote, through any means in its power, all research and distribution of information about the collective economy around the world, considered in its different forms and how they relate to each other.” In 1956, it had eight national branches: Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, India, Italy, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia.
  • [25]
    Warlouzet, Le choix de la CEE; Denord and Schwartz, “L’économie (très) politique.”
  • [26]
    In particular from the CGT, CGT-FO, and CFTC.
  • [27]
    “1. In the case of public undertakings to which Member States grant special or exclusive rights, Member States shall neither enact nor maintain in force any measure contrary to the rules contained in this Treaty, in particular to those rules provided for in Art. 7 and Arts. 85 to 94. 2. Undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest or having the character of a revenue-producing monopoly shall be subject to the rules contained in this Treaty, in particular to the rules on competition, insofar as the application of such rules does not obstruct the performance, in law or in fact, of the particular tasks assigned to them. The development of trade must not be affected to such an extent as would be contrary to the interests of the Community. 3. The Commission shall ensure the application of the provisions of this Article and shall, where necessary, address appropriate directives or decisions to Member States.”
  • [28]
    “This Treaty shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.”
  • [29]
    This expression is inspired by the notion of “operational misunderstandings” of Jean-François Bayart, who defined it as “a common operation in the history of ideas, whereby the deformation of an ideal system leads to other ideal approaches” (Jean-François Bayart, L’illusion identitaire [Paris: Fayard, 1996], 55).
  • [30]
    Article 90 essentially establishes the principle of equal treatment for public and private enterprises under competition law, and Article 222 establishes a principle of European indifference to enterprises’ legal structures. Taken together, these two principles, which give Europe control over both the “public” and “private” categories of the economy, create a mechanism for aligning the public economy with the private sector.
  • [31]
    The French originally wanted Article 90 to guarantee differentiated treatment for public service enterprises under competition law, and Article 222 to protect the sovereign role of states. These principles taken together would aim to encourage states to work together to harmonize public services socially.
  • [32]
    Katja Seidel, The Process of Politics in Europe. The Rise of European Elites and Supranational Institutions (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), 153-70.
  • [33]
    Adrian Kuenzler and Laurent Warlouzet, “National Traditions of Competition Law: A Belated Europeanization through Convergence?,” in The Historical Foundations of EU Competition Law, ed. Kiran Klaus Patel and Heike Schweitzer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 99.
  • [34]
    Seidel, The Process of Politics, 142.
  • [35]
    Denord and Schwartz, “L’économie (très) politique.”
  • [36]
    Cornelia Woll, “La politique de concurrence,” in Politiques européennes, ed. Renaud Dehousse (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2009), 177.
  • [37]
    See Rebecca Adler-Nissen and Kristoffer Kropp, “A Sociology of Knowledge Approach to European Integration: Four Analytical Principles,” Journal of European Integration 37, no. 2 (2015): 155-73; Cécile Robert and Antoine Vauchez, “L’Académie européenne. Savoirs, experts et savants dans le gouvernement de l’Europe,” Politix 89, no. 1 (2010): 9-34.
  • [38]
    The expression is in quotation marks because it did not make sense to all actors at the beginning of European integration, with some believing that, unlike agricultural policy for example, competition was not a “European policy.”
  • [39]
    This journal, which was founded in France, was also published in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Benelux countries, and Italy.
  • [40]
    The expression is taken from French legal scholars who mostly believed that SGEIs had been “ignored” by the European Community from its inception to the Single European Act. See Didier Sabourault, “La doctrine et le service public” (PhD diss. in public law, supervised by Maryse Deguergue, Créteil, Université Paris-Est Créteil, 2000), 461-62.
  • [41]
    Pieter verLoren van Themaat, “Les cinq principes de la politique de concurrence,” Opéra mundi Europe, no. 106 (1961): 4, italics added.
  • [42]
    Hans von der Groeben and Hans von Boeckh, Kommentar zum EWG-Vertrag (Baden-Baden: Verlag August Lutzeyer, 1958), 294-96.
  • [43]
    Aurelio Pappalardo, “Regole di concorrenza. Art. 90,” in Trattato istitutivo della comunità economica europea: Commentario, ed. Alberto Trabucchi et al. (Milan: Giuffrè, 1965), 676-702.
  • [44]
    Expression from Jelle Zijlstra in his report to DG Competition.
  • [45]
    Katja Seidel, “DG IV and the Origins of a Supranational Competition Policy: Establishing an Economic Constitution for Europe,” in The History of the European Union. Origins of a Trans- and Supranational Polity 1950-72, ed. Wolfram Kaiser, Morten Rasmussen, and Brigitte Leucht (London: Routledge, 2009), 136.
  • [46]
    Cécile Robert, “L’expertise comme mode d’administration communautaire: entre logiques technocratiques et stratégies d’alliance,” Politique européenne 11, no. 3 (2003): 57-78.
  • [47]
    Jelle Zijlstra and Bob Goudzwaard, Economic Policy and Problems of Competition in the EEC and the Member Countries of the EEC (Brussels: European Economic Community, 1966).
  • [48]
    Ibid., 6.
  • [49]
  • [50]
    “Le 1er memorandum de la CEE sur le rôle et les limites du secteur public dans le Marché commun,” Europe service, no. 447 (1966): 6.
  • [51]
    See Julie Bailleux, Penser l’Europe par le droit. L’invention du droit communautaire en France (Paris: Dalloz, 2014), 282.
  • [52]
    Guillaume Sacriste, “L’Europe est-elle un État comme les autres? Retour sur la distinction public/privé au sein de la commission juridique du Parlement européen des années 1960,” Cultures & Conflits 85-86, nos. 1-2 (2012): 35-60.
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    Yves Dezalay, “Les courtiers de l’international. Héritiers cosmopolites, mercenaires de l’impérialisme et missionnaires de l’universel,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 151-152, nos. 1-2 (2004): 4-35.
  • [54]
    See Antoine Vauchez, Brokering Europe. Euro-Lawyers and the Making of a Transnational Polity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Antoine Vauchez and Bruno de Witte, eds., Lawyering Europe: European Law as a Transnational Social Field (Oxford/Portland: Hart Publishing, 2013).
  • [55]
    See Lola Avril, “Se saisir de l’Europe: l’invention d’un nouveau métier pour la profession d’avocat. Les avocats à Bruxelles, professionnels de l’intermédiation des politiques publiques européennes,” (paper presented at the symposium “Le sociologue en globe-trotter. Réceptions et usages de la sociologie d’Yves Dezalay,” Paris, January 18-19, 2018).
  • [56]
    Arved Deringer, in collaboration with André Armengaud et al., “Artikel 90,” in “Kommentar zu den EWG-Wettbewerbsregeln (Art. 85 bis 94) nebst Durchführungs-Verordnungen und -Richtlinien,” Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb, no. 6 (1964): 569-76 and nos. 7-8 (1964): 689-716; Id., “Article 90,” in “Les règles de la concurrence au sein de la CEE (Analyse et commentaire des articles 85 à 94 du Traité),” Revue du Marché commun no. 93 (1966): 660-62; no. 94 (1966): 706-8; no. 98 (1967): 38-39; no. 99 (1967): 95-97; no. 101 (1967): 261-63; no. 102 (1967) 317-19; no. 104 (1967): 415-16.
  • [57]
    Arved Deringer, “The Interpretation of Article 90 (2) of the E.E.C. Treaty,” Common Market Law Review 2, no. 2 (1964): 129-38.
  • [58]
    Stevens, A.W. Sythoff, F.B. Rothman & Co, and F. Larcier.
  • [59]
    Members of the editorial board included Jacques Lassier, a Parisian lawyer and secretary of the LICCD, Jacques Mayoux, a graduate of the École nationale d’administration who went on to become a banker, and Paul Reuter, a professor of international law. The patronage committee included former president of Euratom Étienne Hirsch, a president of the National Trade Council, an honorary president of the Paris Chamber of Commerce, General Commissioner of Planning Pierre Massé, the economist Jacques Rueff of the Académie Française, and President of the National Council of French Employers Georges Villiers.
  • [60]
    See Laurence Badel, Un milieu libéral et européen. Le grand commerce français, 1925-1948 (Paris: Ministère de l’Économie, des Finances et de l’Industrie, Comité pour l’histoire économique et financière de la France, 1999); Michel Dumoulin, ed., Réseaux économiques et construction européenne (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2004); Michel Dumoulin and Anne-Myriam Dutrieue, La Ligue européenne de coopération économique (1946-1981): Un groupe d’étude et de pression dans la construction européenne (Bern: Verlag Peter Lang, 1993); Danièle Fraboulet and Pierre Vernus, eds., Genèse des organisations patronales en Europe (19e-20e siècles) (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012).
  • [61]
    The “problem” of competition between the public and private sectors in Europe was studied by the LICCD beginning with its conference in Zurich in 1955.
  • [62]
    In 1957, the ELEC created an ad hoc commission on competition rules whose initial report was written by an expert named Charley del Marmol, who “raised the alarm” within the League about the potential danger that the treaty articles posed for the status of the public economy. Outside of the ELEC and the LICCD, who shared the same analysis of this “problem,” some actors circulated between the two organizations, serving as members of both. They included lawyer Jacques Lassier, a member of the ELEC ad hoc committee and secretary of the LICCD, as well as Jean-Charles Snoy et d’Oppuers, a member of both leagues who participated in the LICCD symposium as an international rapporteur. There are also some biographical connections that illustrate other possible links. Charles van Reepinghen, a member of the ELEC, was the father of LICCD member Bernard van Reepinghen, and the co-author with Paul Orianne–chosen as a rapporteur for the symposium–of a manual on procedures before the Court of Justice of the European Communities. Charley del Marmol, an ELEC expert, was close to professor André Buttgenbach, an international rapporteur for the symposium, whom he met at the University of Liège.
  • [63]
    Jean-Pierre Gouzy, “Les groupements français pro-européens,” in La France et les Communautés européennes, ed. Joël Rideau et al. (Paris: LGDJ, 1975), 233-34.
  • [64]
  • [65]
    “Qu’est-ce que la Ligue internationale contre la concurrence déloyale?,” Bulletin de la Fédération des industries belges, no. 30 (1966): 2813.
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    Ibid., 2814.
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    Antoine Vauchez, Démocratiser l’Europe (Paris: Seuil, 2014).
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    Antonin Cohen, Yves Dezalay, and Dominique Marchetti, “Esprits d’État, entrepreneurs d’Europe,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 166-67, nos. 1-2 (2007): 5-13.
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    Claude-Albert Colliard, “L’entreprise publique et l’évolution du Marché commun,” Revue trimestrielle de droit européen 1, no. 1 (1965): 1-10; Claude-Albert Colliard, “Régime de l’article 37,” in Semaine de Bruges, L’entreprise publique et la concurrence. Les articles 90 et 37 du Traité CEE et leurs relations avec la concurrence (Bruges: De Tempel, 1969), 141-70; Claude-Albert Colliard, “Le régime des entreprises publiques,” in Les Novelles. Droit des Communautés européennes, ed. Walter Ganshof van der Meersch (Brussels: F. Larcier, 1969), 853-60.
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    See André de Laubadère, Cours de grands services publics et entreprises nationales (Paris: Les Cours de droit, 1964).
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    Michel Margairaz, “Les services publics économiques entre experts, praticiens et gouvernants dans le premier xxe siècle: d’une configuration à l’autre,” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 52-53, no. 3 (2005): 150.
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    Bailleux, Penser l’Europe, 366.
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    André Marchal, “De quelques faux dogmes en matière d’organisation européenne,” Revue économique 11, no. 5 (1960): 673-704; Id., “Le secteur public et l’économie de marché dans la CEE,” Revue économique 19, no. 5 (1968): 737-64.
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    Georges Rogissart and André Dumoulin, “Problems of Public Undertakings within the Common Market,” Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics 33, no. 3 (1962): 234-50; Paul Turot, “Le Marché commun et les limites à l’indépendance économique,” Revue politique et parlementaire, no. 727 (1962): 47-56; Karl Osterkamp, “Thoughts about the Congress of Rome. The Usefulness of Public Utility Services,” Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics 34, nos. 2-3 (1963): 423-28; André G. Delion, “Entreprises publiques et Communauté Économique Européenne,” Revue du Marché commun, no. 88 (1966): 67-84.
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    André Marchal, L’Europe solidaire, vol. 1., Doctrine et méthodes (Paris: Cujas, 1964); Id., L’Europe solidaire, vol. II., Les problèmes (Paris: Cujas, 1970).
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    See Karim Fertikh, “La construction d’un ‘droit social européen.’ Socio-histoire d’une catégorie transnationale (années 1950-années 1970),” Politix 115, no. 3 (2016): 201-24.
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    Lucien Nizard, “L’Europe de la concurrence,” Analyse & Prévision (1967): 845-52.
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    He was invited to contribute to an international symposium organized by the Association pour le développement de la science politique européenne (ADESPE) (Association for the Development of European Political Science), an organization that did not survive past the 1960s. In his dissertation, Thibaud Boncourt indicates that “the organization appears to have been originally founded as a national-level association for promoting a political science of European integration” that only later took on an international dimension. Thus, “while ADESPE and its expansion indicate the shared desire to cultivate contacts between European political scientists, the importance of its impact should be relativized.” Thibaud Boncourt, “L’internationalisation de la science politique: Une comparaison franco-britannique (1945-2010)” (PhD diss. in political science, supervised by Pierre Sadran, Bordeaux, Sciences Po Bordeaux, 2011), 112.
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    The GÖW, or the Society for the Public Economy, was created in 1951 by professors of economics (Gisbert Rittig, Univeristy of Göttingen) and political science (Gerhard Weisser, University of Cologne, close to the SPD). Its mission was to provide scientific and operational support and, more broadly, to help expand all branches of the public sector.
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    Archives of CEEP-France, CEEP activity reports, The activities of CEEP in 1967, 1.
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    Archives of CEEP-France, Documents from the CEEP management committee, CEEP 69/C.D. 38, December 1969. Summary of the activities of the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services and Services of general interest for the year 1969, 2.
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    CEEP, Les entreprises publiques, XIX.
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    Vauchez, “La politique (tout) contre.”

This article explores a neglected corner of the Historical Archives of the European Union: namely, the stunning failure of attempts to establish a separation between the public and the private – a division that is otherwise so prevalent at the national level in many member states – at the intellectual heart of the “European project”. By examining the historical conflicts surrounding the notions of “public enterprise” and “service of general economic interest” which accompanied the birth of the European Economic Community, this article describes the fraught development of a European doctrine of public service in the context of its six founding members, where the state and parastatal sectors are nonetheless thriving. Observing the trajectory of these two key notions allows us to better understand how European economic doxa was initially developed, as well as to shed light on some of the forgotten forms of knowledge that have been lost in the stacks of the broader European “archives”.


  • service of general economic interest
  • public service
  • public enterprise
  • European competition
  • transnational worlds
  • European Union government
  • European knowledge
  • European Academy
  • Historical Archives of the European Union
Mélanie Vay
Mélanie Vay is a doctoral student in political science at the Centre européen de sociologie et de science politique (European Center of Sociology and Political Science) (CESSP – UMR 8209) at Université Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne, and she teaches public law at Université Paris-Dauphine. Her dissertation examines the influence of transnational worlds of the public economy and of competition on the elimination of the public-private divide in the government of the European Union (European Center of Sociology and Political Science, Université Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne, 14 rue Cujas, 75005 Paris).
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