In this article, we focus on the difficulties in evaluating the performance of so-called services of general interest. These services generally include such services as water and electricity supply, telephony, postal services, and public transport, where providers are subjected to certain universal service obligations. Because of the tensions between European internal market requirements and these universal service obligations, there exists considerable debate on the criteria to be used to evaluate the performance of these services. In addition, the status of these public services as ‘public’ or ‘essential’ services is disputed. Rankings of the performance of these services will always reflect a certain dominant definition of performance. Ranking schemes as a result both reflect and create performance.

Services of General Interest, liberalisation, public service values, ranking public services, universal service delivery
International Public Management Journal
Accepted Manuscript version, published as: International Public Management Journal, 11(3), pp. 256-274
Department of Public Administration

Van de Walle, S.G.J. (2008). What services are public? What aspects of performance are to be ranked? The case of “services of general interest”. International Public Management Journal, 1–37. Retrieved from