The fur is flying over plans to liberalise the rules on services in the EU single market; When France’s Jacques Chirac snappily told Brussels to redraft its proposals, a group of liberals in Brussels retorted he ‘had passed up a good chance to shut up’.
Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is in calm-everyone-down mode, at the helm of the EU presidency;
He says: “We think Europe needs to liberalise the services sector but also that the directive currently on the table before Council and Parliament must be purged of all risks of social dumping; they are many, and multiple.”
Established, older EU member states are keen to protect their economies and companies from competitors in the newer members, which stand to gain by operating under fewer constraints.
But Brussels insists consumers will come out ahead if services are genuinely opened up.
European industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen makes clear that the principle of companies operating under their home country’s standards and laws will stay in the directive proposal. “I really don’t see how we could do without it”, he said.
For Paris, there has to be a harmonisation of national rules, to protect against an invasion of services not bound by the same criteria as French operators.