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Bolk(Frank)enstein Directive

2.09.2006

Some news from Brussels via EU Observer that the fabled services directive has been put through the ringer at the EU Parliament. Members of the EPP centre-right grouping and Socialist groupings came to some agreements over the proposed directive to be sent back to the Commission for rewriting before presentation to member states.

Some of the compromises seem set to sooth the anxieties of Unions around Europe who have been playing the social-dumping card for all that it is worth. The main points of concern are the scope of the bill (will it extend to public services and public services provided by private operators) and also the now infamous 'country of origin' principle.

On the former, it seems that there is a rough compromise where outright public services seem to fall beyond the remit of the directive while the status of private services in the public realm are up for debate. According to the report neither side seem certain where private service provision in public services falls. However there seems to be clear ring-fencing of the status of public services.

Meanwhile the "country of origin" principle is to be reformulated.

Under Wednesday's agreement, the country of origin principle would be reformulated.

The new version states that while companies have the right to offer their services in countries other than those where they are set up, the member states hosting them must remove all the current obstacles the firms might encounter.

"All the rules which are discriminatory, unnecessary or disproportional must go," said Ms Gebhardt.

Referring to the infamous example, she said "It would mean that a Polish plumber could offer his services in France, without extra demands by French officers on his equipment, material or qualifications."

Self-employed plumbers or other professionals could sell their services at a lower price than their colleagues from the hosting country.

On the other hand, companies sending their workers abroad to provide their services would be obliged to follow the hosting country's minimum labour, social and environmental rules, in a bid to avoid "social dumping."

The vote is due for 16 Feb on the compromise so eyes on that one. FT helpfully provides a QandA on the whole shenanigans though it seems that compromise will end up sealing some form of deal.

Its not all sweetness and light however, members of the centre right seem a tad disappointed;
"We have been discussing with several of my colleagues that what is coming up as a proclaimed 'compromise' is actually a back down from our part, as with so many exemptions from the directive, it might end up quite empty and useless," commented the Czech centre-right MEP, Zuzana Roithova.


Its widely seen as a compromise position encompassing the main points of both sides. Seems to be for the best, the original country of origin position was as unworkable as it was wrongheaded. For the rest we shall have to wait and see.

RR
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