Publicly owned enterprises: The solution? – Thematic group meeting in Genoa (Italy)

What are Publicly Owned Enterprises? How are these used in different European regions? What are the advantages? Or are there other, better, alternatives?

Genoa_3_N3_1These are some of the questions discussed on the 18th of September in Genoa (Italy), when the CCIC project partners came together to discuss one of the project’s thematic areas: Publicly Owned Enterprises (POEs).
From the good practices and examples shown by several partners and the discussions during the meeting, it became clear that not all partners agree on the benefits that POEs can bring to their region, and if there is some added value on POEs, this is implemented and organised in different ways.
For example, the position of the city of Eindhoven (the Netherlands) concerning POEs differs a lot from that of several other European regions. While many European cities and regions are very positive about POEs, the politicians in Eindhoven have an alternative for when issues are not taken up by the market or when the city is not capable of picking up a specific issue with a societal relevance. The government of Eindhoven is keen on a smaller public sector that focuses on the core business. Therefore, other instruments seem better, and one of those instruments is the implementation of an organised cooperation, based on a common strategy and an implementation plan with a clear and defined role for the public sector.
The Finnish city Jyväskylä has also come to view some of the POEs more critically than before. POEs have definitively had a task to fulfil for the past 20 years, but some of them have probably gone too far in pushing the limits of their independence and it is under doubt, whether they still bring the benefits to the owners that they were created for. The councillors in Jyväskylä are currently redirecting e.g. the enterprise & industrial policy, and it is under consideration if it is too valuable a task to be “contracted out”. Even if flexible, a limited company is still an independent legal entity, and further away from the local decision making and strategy formulation than perhaps would be appreciated. One publicly owned enterprise has already been closed down.
The city of Genoa presented several experiences that were of real value to the city, as for example the following case of one of their subsidiary companies:  AMIU (Multiservice Company and Urban Hygiene) was founded in 1986 in order to take care of the entire cycle of urban solid waste, an activity that until then was directly carried out by the city of Genoa. In 2002 AMIU took the form of joint-stock company, completing the evolutionary path that subsequently led it to become a Group (by overseeing its areas of activities with purpose companies). Over the past 20 years since its establishment, AMIU became one of the main Italian operators in the environmental sector. Today, the company covers all the services related to waste cycle management and environment: from street cleaning to separate waste collection, from waste treatment to recoveries, up to the management of plants for recycling and final disposal.
Constant investments in equipment and technologies have become a standard procedure and allow it to meet the needs of a complex city like Genoa, characterized by the largest historic center in Europe, a large port and a very varied urban morphology.
This line of action is further consolidated by the Covenant of Mayors, signed by the Mayor of Genoa two years ago. This agreement provides for the implementation of sustainable policies in the environmental sector with efficiency measures, increased use of renewable energy and recycling of waste. It’s an effective way to combine local issues with global scenarios.
During the meeting in Genoa more success stories on POEs of other European partners were presented. This all demonstrates that whether or not POEs are an effective way to achieve the specific needs of a region, depends on the needs of the region, on other possible solutions that might be available, on the specificities of the region, etc. Once again it becomes clear that there is not one solution fitting all, but it all depends on the different individual situations and possibilities. What works in one region or country, might not work the same way in another one.