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European Commission - Press release

Services: Commission requests 9 Member States to remove excessive and unjustified obstacles to cross-border activities

Brussels, 17 November 2016

The European Commission is taking further steps with regard to Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Spain on the grounds that their national rules include excessive and unjustified obstacles to the provision of services across the internal market.

The Commission considers that the requirements imposed on certain service providers in these Member States run counter to the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC). At the same time, the Commission has decided to close the case against Luxembourg following its positive actions to align relevant legislation with EU law.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: "Services account for more than two thirds of economic activity and jobs in the EU Single Market. By making it easier for services providers to work across the EU, we generate new job opportunities, greater choice and lower prices for consumers. Together with the Member States, we need to remove the many unjustified barriers that still prevent professionals and companies from providing their services in different Member States. That is why I have made enforcement of already agreed EU laws a key priority of our Single Market Strategy."

A number of practical restrictions on services make establishment and cross-border provision of services across the EU difficult: requiring corporate seats in a given jurisdiction; excessive shareholder requirements such as the requirement for professionals to hold 100% of the voting rights or capital in a company; compulsory minimum tariffs; as well as disproportionate authorisation requirements or exclusivity rights. Such obstacles to market entrants are not necessary to ensure high-quality services of domestic or foreign service providers, and in practice often deprive consumers of competitively priced services.

Today, the Commission is acting to address the following concerns to:

-    Austria: seat requirements for architects and engineers (a complementary reasoned opinion);

-    Belgium: multidisciplinary restrictions for accountants (a reasoned opinion);

-    Cyprus: shareholding requirements for all engineering professions, including civil engineers and architects (a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU);

-    Denmark: authorisation/compulsory certification requirement for certain construction services (a letter of formal notice);

-    Germany: minimum and maximum tariffs for architects and engineers (a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU);

-    Hungary: exclusive right granted to a single operator to provide a service (a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU);

-    Italy: establishment requirements for attestation companies as a prerequisite to provide certification services in public procurement (a complementary letter of formal notice);

-    Lithuania: multidisciplinary restrictions on certain construction service providers (a letter of formal notice);

-    Spain: minimum compulsory tariffs and multidisciplinary restrictions for the legal profession of "Procuradores" - a legal profession in Spain responsible of the procedural representation of the parties in most legal proceedings before the Courts (a reasoned opinion).

Member States now have two months to notify the Commission of measures taken to remedy the situation.

 

Background

The objective of the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) is to realise the full potential of services markets in Europe by removing legal and administrative barriers to trade, while at the same time allowing for national safeguards which are justified, such as for example public security, and proportionate to the objective to be pursued.

The following articles of the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) form the legal basis for actions taken in the above cases:

-    Article 10 of this Directive provides that the authorisation for a service provider to exercise its activity needs to be non-discriminatory, justified and proportionate. The conditions for granting the authorisation will not duplicate requirements and controls already undergone.

-    In Article 14, the Services Directive lists a series of prohibited requirements, including the obligation to have the company seat in a certain jurisdiction and economic need tests.

-    Article 15 of the Services Directive lists a series of requirements that may only be imposed on service providers under certain conditions. Requirements - such as legal form, shareholding, mandatory tariffs and specific arrangements, which reserve access to the service activity to particular providers - are not strictly prohibited under EU law but have been identified by the Court of Justice of the EU as creating obstacles to the single market in services. They can only be maintained in so far as they are non-discriminatory, justified by an overriding reason relating to the public interest, and proportionate in the sense that no less restrictive measure could be used to achieve the same objective.

-    In Article 16, this Directive lists a series of requirement which cannot be imposed on cross-border provider of services unless non-discriminatory, justified by specific overriding reasons and proportionate.

-    Article 25 of the Services Directive requires Member States to ensure that providers are not made subject to requirements which oblige them to exercise a given specific activity exclusively or which restrict the exercise jointly or in partnership of different activities.

 

More information:

- On the key decisions of the November infringements package, please refer to the full MEMO/16/3644.

- On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12(an info graph).

- On the EU infringements procedure.

IP/16/3646

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email


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