Privatizing public enterprises in the European Union 1960–2002: ideological, pragmatic, inevitable

Privatization, recognized as one of the most important economic policy reforms from the 1970s, has attracted significant attention from scholars, and the literature on the topic is now vast. Yet there is little agreement on the reasons why governments privatized. Three dominant paradigms explaining European Union (EU) privatization put forward distinct motivations. The ‘British paradigm’ assumed that market-friendly ideology played a significant role in a path towards a global programme inspired by the UK experience. The ‘multiple logics’ approach observed that the UK was an anomaly, not a leader, and that EU privatization was so diverse that there were few, if any, common logics. The ‘European paradigm’ emphasized the importance of Europe in the context of a changing world and placed EU privatization in the context of economic and political integration. This article tests all three paradigms using comparative data on EU privatization by country and sector. Pragmatic concerns connected to European integration requirements, particularly in sectors such as telecommunications, transport and utilities, were of the utmost importance in motivating governments to privatize from the 1990s. Europe is thus a powerful explanatory factor when considering ongoing EU privatization.


Journal of European Public Policy




Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales
University of Cantabria
39005 Cantabria



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