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Charlie McCreevy

European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

Commissioner Charlie McCreevy’s Statement on the Services Directive at  the European Parliament Plenary session of February 2006

European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 14 February 2006

President, Honourable Members

Since its birth two years ago this proposal has been in the headlines. Both its supporters and its opponents see it as a symbol.

During all the controversy about this proposal, which focused on a relatively small number of issues, it was easy to forget that there are many other areas where I believe broad agreement exists and that the benefits of the proposal are recognised

  • Firstly, thanks to administrative simplification, it will be easier to establish a business in the EU. This is crucial for fostering entrepreneurship, a vital element in promoting growth and jobs. Service providers will be able to obtain information and complete administrative formalities through single points of contact in any MS, thus simplifying, accelerating and reducing the cost of the authorisation process and obviating the need to deal with different levels of authorities.

It will also be possible to fulfil these procedures electronically so that businesses save time, and avoid incurring considerable costs, in having to make visits in person -sometimes several times - in order to complete necessary formalities with the relevant authorities.

  • Secondly, it will be good for consumers. Improving consumer confidence is a key component in boosting the possibilities that the internal market offers to them. They will benefit as key information about businesses and the service they are providing will be made easily available. This will enable them to make informed choices when they are purchasing services. Rights of consumers are clearly set out and any discrimination on the basis of nationality or place of residence must be removed.
  • Thirdly, Member States will have to implement administrative cooperation to ensure that businesses are properly and efficiently supervised across the EU, while avoiding duplication of control. This legal obligation will be underpinned at a practical level by an electronic system enabling authorities to exchange information directly and efficiently.

These, amongst many others in the draft Directive, are provisions which will bring forward significant benefits, both for businesses and consumers. I know that you have never lost sight of this.

In assessing the amendments adopted in the lead Committee's opinion, and the further proposed amendments tabled since, the Commission is taking a highly constructive and positive position. In particular, we intend to take on board and incorporate in our revised proposal those amendments that we believe to be supported by a broad majority of this house.

The Commission broadly welcomes amendments put forward by the EP which aim to clarify and improve the Commission's initial proposal. These relate mainly to the administrative simplification, establishment and administrative co-operation.

The Commission also broadly welcomes many of the amendments adopted by IMCO in relation to services of general interest. This is a sensitive question which has split opinions during the entire debate and it is clear, in my view, that the IMCO vote has achieved a great deal in this respect. On the other hand I believe that services of general economic interest should stay within the scope of the proposal. Any further exclusions of sectors from the scope of the proposal should be extremely limited.

The compromise texts I have seen give us a good basis for producing our modified proposal if they are adopted. But we need to be clear about how we will deal with possible deletions from the proposal. If the Parliament votes to delete articles 24 and 25 of the proposal concerning the posting of workers, then the Commission will produce guidance to address any undue administrative burdens which may hinder the opportunities for enterprises to avail of the Posted Workers Directive. This can be done relatively quickly. There is well established Court jurisprudence which needs to be complied with.

Equally, if health services are excluded from the scope of the Directive this does not take away from the necessity to address the increasing jurisprudence of the Court of Justice in regard to patient mobility. A separate proposal from the Commission addressing this issue will therefore be necessary.

The compromise texts also recognise the freedom that service providers should have to access markets in other MS and to exercise their activities there. I welcome that they recognise that a whole range of barriers to the provision of these services will have to be abolished while, of course, permitting certain restrictions on well defined public policy grounds.

It is important to underline that any amendments we will accept must meet the objective that this Directive should represent a forward step towards the creation of an Internal Market for services. As guardian of the Treaties, we also need to carry out our responsibility to ensure that what emerges is compatible with the fundamental freedoms as set out there and in the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice.

In addition any restrictions that MS may apply to service providers from other MS have to be judged against the criteria of non-discrimination, necessity, and proportionality. This must be borne in mind particularly when we look at whatever modifications are voted to Art 16 and the Freedom to provide services.

I am sure most members will agree that this is the only way we can ensure that the real added value of this proposal is maintained. This will facilitate the cross-border provision of services and at the same time ensure that legitimate public policy considerations can be safeguarded. This is the balance we are all working for. This seems to me to be the essence of the compromise amendments on article 16.

I confirm that, following the vote on Thursday, the Commission will bring forward a revised proposal with a view to facilitating a Common Position as soon as possible, hopefully before end of April. Where there is broad consensus in this house on the amendments to be made, the Commission will, subject to what I have said earlier, base its modified proposals on these amendments.

In the meantime, I look forward to today's debate and, ultimately, the outcome of Thursday's vote. Parliament has a real opportunity to show that after two years work it can provide the basis for taking forward in a consensual way an important but hugely controversial proposal. It is a challenge I believe most MEPs want to rise to. I urge you to continue to work for the consensus which I believe is within your grasp. You can deliver a better services directive which unleashes the enormous economic potential of the services sector. This is the basis on which we will be judged by the European businesses, workers, consumers and unemployed that stand to benefit from it.

Thank you for your attention.

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