The European Union’s leaders have concluded their summit in Brussels agreeing to major alterations in the Bolkestein directive on the liberalisation of the bloc’s services market. This takes pressure off France, where public opinion in the matter had risked the ‘no’ camp winning a referendum on the EU constitution. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, chaired the talks.
He said: “We have decided there will be an opening up of the services market and this will be done in such a way as to avoid any social dumping. France’s concerns are largely shared by Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium, to name just a few. It is not true that the European Council has decided to make substantial changes to the directive solely because of strong shifts in France.”
The leaders also approved reform of the Stability Pact, relaxing the EU rules on budget deficits. Germany comes out well in this, notably for the Chancellor’s 2006 electoral chances. New commitments were made by the 25 to reinvigorate the Lisbon Strategy, aimed at improving the bloc’s economic performance.