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Charlie McCreevy

Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

Statement on the Revised Proposal for the Services Directive

European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 4 April 2006


Honourable Members,

When we debated this proposal at the February Plenary session, I said that the Commission would base its modified proposal on what Parliament voted.

I believe you will see that in the text adopted by the College today we have honoured that commitment.

We have endeavoured to respect the consensus you have reached on some of the key articles

You will find the amendments you voted on article 16 (Freedom to Provide Services), article 17 (derogations from Freedom to Supply Services) reflected in the modified proposal.

We have excluded all healthcare from the scope of the proposal and in line with the commitment given we will come forward with a separate initiative on the health sector.

The modified proposal also provides for the exclusion of taxation, temporary work agencies, security services and audiovisual from the scope of the proposal.

One issue on scope we did not follow you is the exclusion of legal services. The Commission considers this is not required given that article 3 already provides that in case of conflict between a specific directive and this proposal it is the former that will prevail.

In addition, we have brought the wording on the exercise of an official authority in line with article 45 of the EC Treaty.

We have based the exclusion of Social Services on the various amendments you adopted in this regard. I am sure you will agree that any exclusion must be clearly defined and this is what we have attempted to do.

If we want to avoid diverging interpretation in Member States then we must provide legal certainty. The text of the modified proposal specifies that the exclusion from the Directive concerns those social services relating to social housing, children and support to families and persons in need which are provided by the State or by providers mandated by the State.

In addition the Commission will come forward in the next few weeks with a Communication on Social Services of General Interest reflecting the importance these services have for our citizens.

The decision to remove all interaction between the Services Proposal and Labour Law has in my opinion been one of the most important elements in creating a more positive atmosphere around this new Services Proposal. This has allowed us to move on from the allegations of lowering of social standards and threats to the European social model.

While this perception was wrong it did not go away and poisoned the debate on this important proposal. In any event the modified proposal is clear in this regard. Labour law is completely removed.

One of the fall-outs from this is that articles 24 + 25 have been removed from the modified proposal.

However, as I said during the debate in February, the Commission would come forward with a Communication to address the issues surrounding the posting of workers which articles 24 and 25 were designed to address.

Vladimir Špidla will outline to you in a moment the approach the Commission adopted today. I just want to add that this Communication is a vital element in our efforts to reach agreement in the Council on the Services Proposal.

There are two other issues in the modified proposal I want to highlight:

  • We have clarified in article 3 that all special laws take precedence over the provisions of the Services Proposal. In particular, we have made it clear in article 3 that the Directive does not affect private international law and that as a consequence consumers will in principle benefit from the protection granted to them by the consumer protection rule laid down in the consumer legislation in force in his Member State.
  • The Commission has also accepted that the Professional Liability Insurance in article 27 should be optional instead of compulsory.

Since the EP voted in February there have been a growing realisation throughout the EU that the consensus you found was the basis for taking this debate forward. Heads of Government at this European Council 2 weeks ago supported this.

We have a window of opportunity for building on this growing consensus

I want to see the potential for growth and jobs, that this proposal will bring, realised as soon as possible

I will now present this modified proposal to the Informal Competitiveness Council in Graz later this month. I feel confident that with the active support of the Austrian Presidency and Member States we stand a real chance of making significant progress during this Presidency.

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