The Polish plumber became the bogeyman of those countries opposed to opening up Europe’s services sector. Wages would drop and workers’ rights would be weakened, they argued. But despite these fears, European Union ministers have now agreed a deal on creating a free market for services which, they say, will result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said last year many thought agreement was impossible. “I think very few people would have believed in the autumn of last year that by the end of May we would have got it through the European Parliament, turned around with a modified text, dealt with by the presidency and general agreement by the Council of Ministers in that period of time,” he said. The text – known in some countries as the Bolkestein Directive after former internal market commissioner Frits Bolkstein – was dubbed the Frankenstein Directive. Scaremongering, according to the real Bolkestein, just because it rhymes. Parliament has removed the so-called “country of origin” principle, which many feared would lead to a race downwards over wages, employment rules and environmental protection. Now businesses will be governed by the regulations of the country in which the service is being provided.