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EP Services Directive compromise at risk of foundering

brussels bureau

EP Services Directive compromise at risk of foundering


A law on opening up the services market in the EU has a couple more days of gritty debate ahead of it. German centre-left and centre-right members of the European Parliament have expressed serious doubts about a compromise worked out last week between the biggest groups in the assembly. The compromise said EU countries would be able to continue to protect through their own regulation various areas, such as public health, security or the environment.

German Socialist Evelyne Gebhardt wrote the parliament’s report in the matter. She says: “We want a real opening up of the borders and markets. We must succeed. At the same time we must ensure that quality standards are more equal from one member state to another.” Some players are arguing that a watering-down of the directive would leave too much protectionism in place, others that it will still be too liberal.

Analyst Daniel Gross says: “There would be trouble in adapting on both sides — in the east as in the west, in the older and the newer member states. There will be differences according to each sector. There may be some small areas where manpower counts the most, and there the older members will have more difficulties. In other sectors it won’t be the cost of labour that counts but quality, training and structure. There the older members would have the advantage. Clear differentiations must be made on this question.”

The EU legislature is due to hold a first vote on the co-called Bolkestein directive this Thursday. Free marketeers who say it will boost competitiveness and growth are battling with those who fear it will destroy jobs and erode workers’ rights.

Tens of thousands marched in Berlin and Strasbourg on Saturday. More demonstrations are planned.

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