Starting from the different traditions with regard to performing public services (services of general interest), the continental-European and the Anglo-Saxon ones, the paper determines basic characteristics of public services. Special attention is paid to the evolution of the concept of public services and their basic characteristics and classification, the protection of public interest and the special role of the public authorities with regard to the services of general interest. The paper analyses the evolution of the concept of “services of general interest” that has been developed within the European Union, and that has been stimulated by the release of several European Union documents (Announcements from 1996 and 2001, the Green Paper from 2003 and White Paper from 2004). The significance of this concept lies in the fact that it reflects the main conflict related to the development of the so-called European Model of Society, which attempts to reconcile the demands resulting from the welfare state on the one hand, with making provisions for the uninterrupted functioning of the common market on the other. Basic elements for the development of the concept of social services of general interest are proposed, attempting to point out to their specificities with regard to the category of economic services of general interest. Special attention is given to the critical analysis of the judicial practice of the European Court of Justice with regard to social services that this Court has issued decisions on. Due to specificities of social services, their special treatment in the process of reform that those services are undergoing is recommended.