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Bolkestein Directive background

brussels bureau

Bolkestein Directive background


The Bolkestein directive was named after Dutchman Frits Bolkestein, who was the EU’s top internal market official under the Prodi commission. In 2004, he proposed a deregulation of services throughout the EU. Services account for more than 60% of the bloc’s economy.

Why does the EU need a directive on the free movement of services when this freedom is already supposedly established in the EU’s founding treaty? Over the years member states have raised barriers through enacting national laws; This forced foreign service providers to apply for special authorisation.

The European Court of Justice has ruled many such barriers illegal. With a directive, states would have to change national laws to remove barriers. The directive permits any service unless explicitly excluded or covered by a separate EU law. The EU executive sees the bill as crucial to boosting competition among everything from architects, accountants and computer consultants to plumbers and bricklayers, projecting this would boost economic output.

Catering, advertising, hairdressing and tourism operators would all be covered. Governments could restrict a service provider on proven public health or safety grounds. Health, education and child care are among the areas given blanket protection.

The controversial country of origin idea had envisaged firms operating in any EU member state as long as they abided by their home country rules. Even before it was blocked, work on a site near Stockholm was halted by the construction workers union because a Latvian contractor refused to apply Swedish payscales for its own manpower.

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