There will not be much love in the air at the European Parliament today, as the assembly’s Valentine’s Day debate covers the controversial Bolkestein directive on opening up the services market. It is expected there will be requests for further amendments and exemptions to an existing compromise deal.
“We want a real opening up of borders and markets,” commented German Socialist Evelyne Gebhardt. “At the same time we must ensure that quality standards are more equal from one member state to another.” There is widespread support for the idea of liberalising services like construction, catering, advertising and even law. But there is profound disagreement on how it should be done, and to what extent. Sensitive areas like healthcare and social services are likely to be left out. Unions are planning more demonstrations in Strasbourg as the parliament votes. They reject claims the changes would boost jobs and growth, arguing instead they will lead to lower standards and poor workers’ rights.