President. We shall now resume the debate on the report by Mrs Evelyne Gebhardt on services in the internal market.
Jacques Toubon (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, as a new Member of the European Parliament, I should like to say that, having attended these debates for 18 months now, I have discovered the richness and the quality of the work done in this Chamber.
I should like to pay tribute to our Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, to its late chairman, Mr Whitehead, to its rapporteur, Mrs Gebhardt and to the draftsman of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Mrs Van Lancker. I should like to thank those at the helm of our group, to whose work we owe the draft we are debating today: Mr Harbour, the shadow rapporteur and coordinator of our group; Mrs Thyssen, our vice-chairman; and our indefatigable secretariat. I should also like to pay tribute to the work of Mrs Descamps and of Mrs Bachelot, who are both members of the French delegation.
Thanks to all these men and women, we have made a significant breakthrough: the compromise is a new text. First and foremost, it establishes the internal market in services. This draft takes away from the Court of Justice the de facto monopoly it has been exercising for the past 50 years with regard to implementing the principles of the Treaties. The internal market in services is based on mutual confidence and entails administrative cooperation, the simplification of administrative procedures and the abolition of protectionist obstacles, in terms both of the setting up of service companies and of the temporary provision of services. The draft applies to services of general economic interest only where the freedom of establishment is concerned, while it excludes many essential services such as audiovisual services and the cinema, gambling activities, health care and the legal professions. The compromise therefore proposes that Parliament vote in favour of a framework act geared towards economic growth, innovation and employment. That is what the nations of Europe want.
Yet the compromise also respects our model and our national collective preferences. Will the directive lead to the dismantling of our social standards? Will it cause a levelling down effect? With the Commission’s first proposal, the risk was plain to see. That is why we rejected it. The compromise proposed to you, however, constitutes a barrier to social dumping, is based on subsidiarity and adopts a sensible and restrictive approach to implementing the freedom to provide services. It is made absolutely clear that the compromise excludes social standards and labour law. Competition in the social sphere is prohibited. Many national rules are respected where freedom of establishment is concerned, and the freedom to provide services is accompanied by the guarantee that Member States can apply their national rules when doing so is justified by the public interest. This is a true compromise: it is the subject of criticism from both sides, which clearly shows that we have found a happy medium.
On behalf of my French colleagues, I therefore hope that you will support the compromise by voting in favour of it by a very large majority. Doing so would be a victory for the European Parliament and it would be a victory for the European Union.
Harlem Désir (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, Mr Winkler, it is one thing to complete the internal market, which is an objective that we share. Yet, it is quite another thing to dismantle the European social model, which is a move that we strongly oppose. We strongly oppose it because it runs counter to the interests of the citizens and to the interests of workers and of European consumers, but also because it jeopardises citizens’ support for the European project.
The initial draft Bolkestein Directive was overwhelmingly rejected because it was seemingly designed to make the completion of the internal market dependent on the reduction of social rights and on the reduction of environmental standards and of the protection of those consumers who had attained a higher level of protection in some Member States than in others.
By seeking to base the internal market no longer on competition between businesses, but on competition between the social systems of the various Member States, the Bolkestein proposal has made it seem as though it is playing the Member States’ interests off against one other. It has created a suspicious atmosphere between old and new Member States, running counter to the European Commission’s task, which is to unite all Europeans around a common project. By including many social services and some services of general economic interest in the scope of the directive, the Commission has tried to subject activities that are crucial in terms of social cohesion to nothing other than the logic of competition and of the market.
With the country of origin principle, the Commission has turned its back on the Community method, which is aimed at sector-specific harmonisation. It is a method that has always consisted of bringing together the provisions in force in the Member States and is therefore strictly designed to promote mutual recognition and economic integration without jeopardising the European social model and – I repeat – the higher level of protection attained at times in certain countries. It was a question of upwards harmonisation.
With this draft, the European Commission has, for the first time ever, proposed a law that, unlike the Community method, encourages the disparity in national laws and rewards the least demanding Member States. Admittedly, the present Commission was not responsible for the initial proposal. Nevertheless, it does have a responsibility: once you recognised that this text was badly thought out and badly put together – as you pointed out, Mr McCreevy – it was your responsibility to withdraw it and to propose another text that was more in keeping with European social principles and liable to restore people’s confidence.
That is why the French members of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament will vote in favour of an amendment to reject the text. Mr Barroso, you stated that the Commission was willing to include the amendments that would help us make progress with the internal market in services, but you did not state what you would do with the amendments aimed at safeguarding social rights, environmental standards and consumer law. Nor did you state what you had in store for the amendments that would exclude social services and certain services of general economic interest from the scope of the directive. On the contrary, Mr McCreevy even stated this afternoon that he wanted to retain some services of general economic interest in the scope of the directive. You therefore give the impression of not listening to Parliament or of only listening to it when it comes out in favour of liberalisation.
Mr President, Mr Barroso, I will conclude by saying that this afternoon’s demonstration witnessed to the expectation of a Europe that is more protective of the social sphere than is the Commission. Our vote in favour of the compromise will be subject to the exclusion of all public services from the scope of the directive, to the removal of the country of origin principle and to the stipulation of clear legal rules with regard to the applicable law. The compromise currently proposed sadly does not include these changes, and we have therefore tabled amendments along these lines.
Ona Juknevičienė (ALDE). – (LT) I am the shadow rapporteur for the report by Anne Van Lancker of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. I will talk about the regulation of the movement of workers in the Directive.
Mr President, I travelled abroad for the first time in 1990, when Lithuania declared independence. Prior to this, the Communists would not let me leave, as my father was an opponent of their regime.
Lithuania has now rid itself of Communists and we are in the European Union.
We joined the Community wanting to be useful. We believed that we would be equal partners and citizens of the Union. Sadly, this is not so. Most of Europe's old-timers are more afraid of us than bird flu. 2006 has been declared the year of free movement for workers in the Community, but its members do not want to open the doors at all. The Directive proposes new restrictions.
The Commission's figures show that there is a clear advantage for countries, which have liberalised their labour markets. Politicians, meanwhile, threaten people with an invasion from the east and ignore the facts. Why are illegal immigrants from the former Yugoslavia tolerated in Austria, Moroccans in France and Turks in Germany? But Slovaks, Poles and Lithuanians there are seen as the greatest threat.
The old members of the Community have long benefited from the markets of the new countries. We say that this is fine, because we believe in mutual benefits. Our business communities are also looking for new markets and are ready to compete honestly. They know that competition equals progress and growth. They also know that only an integrated and united Europe will endure the challenges posed by globalisation. But do we know this?
Unfortunately, for the Lithuanian the proposed Directive means that little has changed since the days of the iron curtain.
Mr President, Europe may remain split if its peoples are played off against one another. A united Europe is one where all citizens have equal rights. Above all, freedom of movement and freedom to provide services.
Jean-Luc Bennahmias (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, I request that, during Thursday’s vote, we schedule an interruption of the sitting just before the final vote.
Parliament and the Commission ought to erect a statue of Mr Bolkestein, the most famous European in 2005 and 2006, so that everyone remembers that we no longer want a proposal of this kind, based on an initiative of the European Commission.
Admittedly, we have moved on today from the stage we were at with the initial Bolkestein Directive: our parliamentary committees have worked, and they have worked hard. Is that a good enough reason, however, to accept this compromise? I – indeed, we - genuinely do not think so. There are still too many grey areas in this text, not least where the opportunities for monitoring labour law, environmental law and consumer law are concerned. We cannot accept services of general economic interest, social services or social housing being affected by this directive.
If the aim is to restore confidence among all of our fellow citizens, who increasingly doubt the part played by European integration in improving their everyday lives, then we must quickly switch to a real form of upwards social harmonisation, not least by making it our priority to draft a directive that defines the notions of European public service.
Jonas Sjöstedt (GUE/NGL). – (SV) Mr President, the proposal for a Services Directive is reactionary. It threatens employees’ rights and it is in danger of leading to social dumping. We therefore want the proposal to be rejected in its entirety. If it is not, we shall vote in favour of each proposal that limits the harmful effects of the directive, for example proposals to do away with the country of origin principle and to exempt certain sectors from the directive.
The proposed compromise between the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats removes important defects from the proposal, but major ambiguities remain, which are supposedly to be resolved by the European Court of Justice. We, for our part, do not want employees’ rights to be determined by the Court. We cannot accept a situation in which employees’ rights, together with legislation designed to protect our citizens, are sacrificed on the altar of the free market.
Jens-Peter Bonde (IND/DEM). – (DA) Mr President, I should like to thank the many demonstrators who, in a dignified manner, today showed their opposition to the Bolkestein Directive. Like the demonstrators, the June Movement wishes to reject the Bolkestein Directive. The compromise between the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats does not alter the crux of the matter. The country of origin principle is being removed but is not being replaced by a clear host country principle. The Posting Directive continues to give low-wage countries the right to undermine our own wages and the Danish model of collective bargaining. Sensitive areas are being removed from the directive, so that it is left to judges to liberalise public services and make them subject to the market. This has already happened within the areas of education, health and social affairs.
The European Court of Justice is directly invited to legislate by means of Amendment 5, which confirms the Court’s principles of non-discrimination, necessity and proportionality. These principles sound good, but the three words reflect the fact that it is the judges in Luxembourg who will decide whether national legislation can be regarded as unlawful if foreign companies are not in practice equally entitled under it to tender for work and to provide services. The June Movement welcomes Polish plumbers and all other foreign workers, but they should be paid non-discriminatory wages, not dumping wages. We wish to see free competition, but it must also be fair, and we therefore propose services regulated by the open coordination method so that our democracies are not turned into unlawful trade barriers by the judges in Luxembourg.
Rolandas Pavilionis (UEN). – (LT) Everyone agrees that the Services Directive would legalise the movement of services within the territory of the European Union. And if it was adopted without major amendments, it would not discriminate against the new countries. I mean, above all, the preservation of the country of origin principle. On the other hand, particularly when one takes into account the dangers posed by most of the amendments, this directive could drift far from the original draft and become an insurmountable obstacle to the further development of the European Union.
Another question is the range of services. I agree that in reality education, according to both the Community Treaty and the Directive, is, above all, a matter of national responsibility, and the European Union only funds general education programmes. However, if there is a lack of national responsibility and the funding of general European education programmes does not increase, then the Services Directive, by only confirming the responsibility of the national authorities, while neglecting education services, does not help to solve the problems surrounding the expansion of education in Europe, it simply perpetuates them. This, by the way, is confirmed by the decrease in funding of general education and culture programmes for 2007-2013, which was the subject of a persuasive letter by the Committee on Culture and Education to all the group leaders of the European Parliament.
Hans-Peter Martin (NI). – (DE) Mr President, it is a very strange debate that we are witnessing today. To listen to the representatives of the major parties, you would think that we really had found a solution – but what sort of solution? The mountain has laboured and brought forth a bureaucratic chimera. Just take a look at it, those of you here who call yourselves social democrats. How exactly are you planning to implement what you think you have negotiated? And we find the same desperate situation on the other side. Those who really think they can create a more open market have also failed. What do you do in such a situation in real life, where there is no room for wastefulness or mutual admiration? You go back to square one. You start again from the beginning. It is a tragedy for Europe that you have not done that here. It is a tragedy that you have not listened to Mrs Rühle. It is those who actually want to stand up for the idea of Europe who will have to bear the consequences of all the problems that have now been built in, and also of the complaints that will be coming our way.
Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, the prosperity and well-being of the EU’s citizens are based on recognised freedoms: the free movement of goods, persons, capital and services.
While the promotion of the free movement of services fits within the framework of the Lisbon process, being necessary to achieve growth and jobs, the proposal that was before us, turned out to be a quick-fire solution, one which, whilst it may be lethal, can also have positive effects. It turned out to be beneficial for the new Member States, but I warn you that the social unrest it may cause may mean that we will go from bad to worse, and the directive would not only lead to social unrest, it would also undo the good work.
There are a number of other problems. The posting of workers is one that I would mention. What does the Commission intend to do in practice now? Being from a border region myself, I am aware that we must prevent administrative obstacles from hampering the posting of workers, or preventing it altogether. We must pull out all the stops, not least with a view to putting the temporary employment dossier back on track in the Council. Once everything runs along smoothly in the temporary employment sector, I for one will be in favour of bringing this sector within the scope of the Services Directive, but that point has still not yet been reached, what matters now is that this Temporary Employment Directive be put back on track.
Everything hinges on the monitoring procedures that will be put in place: monitoring the posting of workers, monitoring self-employed sole traders … As for the former, we are not only examining social security and taxes, we could also stipulate that minimum wages be specified on the forms used.
This is what makes the process of the Services Directive so effective and I am pleased with the compromises that have been reached.
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (PSE). – (DA) Mr President, the compromise that we have before us and on which we are to vote on Thursday is a services directive quite different from the Bolkestein Directive. I can therefore say to Mr Bonde that the thousands of honourable trade unionists demonstrating outside Parliament today support the compromise arrived at in this Chamber. Mr Bonde needs only to read the press statement by John Monks, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, to know that this is so. I have to say, too, that I am in no doubt as to why they support it. I have myself been involved in moving things in that direction. Agreements and labour legislation will be decided on by individual countries and individual trade union movements. This arrangement will provide more jobs. The public sector will be safeguarded, and we shall have avoided a split between the new and the old Member States.
On Thursday, we shall be voting on a balanced opening-up of the internal market. I have said for a long time that the European Union must not develop into a form of competition between states. That is something we have avoided by means of the compromise now before us. We shall now obtain competition on fair and transparent conditions, and we shall obtain protection of those interests that serve the public and the individual citizen in the public sector as variously manifested in our societies. I think that what we have here is an important compromise, and I also think that it represents a crucial developmental trend on which we must build further, irrespective of whether we are talking about the Working Time Directive or the many other matters we have to tackle. In my capacity, too, as President of the Party of European Socialists, I can therefore recommend the compromise now before us. It will definitely move us in the right direction.
Cecilia Malmström (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, we have been discussing this Services Directive all around Europe for almost two years. It is, of course, excellent that there is finally something for people to take an active interest in among the subjects we tackle in this Assembly. Sometimes, a lot of misunderstandings arise and, sometimes, these misunderstandings are exploited in a quite distasteful way.
The Services Directive is designed to remove all the thousands of bureaucratic obstacles that make things difficult for European companies, especially small companies. We must not forget that it is companies that create jobs. Without companies, there would be no employees at all. The services sector is a growing part of our economies, offering major opportunities for jobs and growth. We must open up and reform the European economies as a matter of some urgency. The country of origin principle is clever inasmuch as it creates a genuine internal market without discrimination. That constitutes significant progress for people and companies. The principle was clarified and specified in the IMCO’s compromise, which states that it is the host country’s rules governing labour law, public health and safety that apply.
The compromise now circulating among the big groups has introduced an extremely woolly concept, namely that of social policy. That is deeply unfortunate because it opens the door to protectionism and to a great many different legal interpretations. It can, indeed, be heard how representatives from the various groups are already interpreting the compromise. It now seems, however, as if that compromise is on the way out, in which case that is a state of affairs we cannot but welcome.
The Services Directive is about how Europe is to hold its own in a globalised world. It is about growth, the economy, employment and freedom of choice. Since the Treaty of Rome, our aim has been to establish freedom of movement for services too. Now is the time to do just that.
Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – (SV) Mr President, Parliament is capitulating today and renouncing its political role. The compromise means that the concept of the country of origin principle is being removed and replaced by a political vacuum. This vacuum will then be filled by the European Court of Justice which, in turn, will reintroduce the country of origin principle, because the Court consistently puts internal market considerations before everything else. The Court cannot be dismissed, and nor can it be held accountable. Is that democracy?
Only large companies with armies of lawyers will be able to use the Services Directive to uphold their interests. The only unemployment to which the directive will put an end is that of the lawyers. The losers will be the municipalities, public employees, consumers and small businesses. Let us vote down this directive. Instead of enforcing the liberalisation of everything, we should respect democratically taken decisions to preserve sectors from short-term thinking focused on the market. The EU cannot live on economic efficiency alone. We also need democratic efficiency in which people are not constantly ridden roughshod over by bad directives.
Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, the directive on the free provision of services and freedom of establishment forms part of the more general anti-grass policy of the European Union and is based on the Maastricht Treaty and on the ratified objective of the Lisbon Strategy to create a single market, with the primary objective of strengthening competition, maximising the profitability of the monopolies, by privatising public and public utility services, and striking at the fundamental employment and social rights of the working classes.
The vows to remain true to the principle of the full unaccountability of the monopolies were repeated in an arrogant manner today by the President of the European Commission, Mr Barroso.
The political agreement between the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, with the package of amendments, does not change the reactionary nature of the directive, the basic principle of which is the country of origin, in other words full unaccountability for capital and the destruction of thousands of small- and medium-sized enterprises and self-employed people. The recommendations on alleged respect for workers' rights constitute an attempt to gild the pill and deflate the workers' reactions.
The argument that liberalisation will mean cheaper services for the peoples does not stand up, given that, with the directive, services will be concentrated in fewer hands and the monopolies will determine quality and prices in keeping with increased profits, which is why we shall vote against the directive. You are sowing winds and you are sure to reap hurricanes.
(The President cut off the speaker)
Hélène Goudin (IND/DEM). – (SV) Mr President, the Swedish June List defends an efficient internal market and is therefore well disposed towards the Services Directive. At the same time, we value national self-determination. There must be good reasons for the Member States to transfer power and competences to the EU. If we accept the country of origin principle, we give up national sovereignty. We believe that the benefits of this principle are too limited for us to be prepared to do that. This principle mainly affects services such as construction, cleaning and consultancy. These are important sectors, but they do not have a decisive influence on Swedish prosperity and GDP.
It is also a good thing that national monopolies on services should not be included in the directive. If these are to be reorganised, they should be so in a democratic spirit, that is to say by means of a broad debate in those countries that believe that such a change is desirable. We shall support the compromise.
Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the common European market was supposed to be based on three freedoms. I refer to the free movement of goods and services, the free movement of capital and the free movement of people.
Over recent decades, the implementation of the first of these freedoms enabled the old Member States to achieve surpluses of tens of billions of euro in their balance of trade with countries such as Poland. This helped secure hundreds of thousands of jobs in the old Member States.
The second freedom allowed entrepreneurs from the old Member States to be involved in the privatisation of the Polish State Treasury’s assets on exceptionally favourable terms, notably in the baking and insurance sector.
Unfortunately, when it comes to free movement of persons, the very freedom that would be most beneficial to the new Member States, we face significant restrictions.
The so-called Services Directive might have helped to improve matters. Regrettably, the current draft contained in Mrs Gebhardt’s report is a far cry from the version tabled by the European Commission and has very little to do with the idea of the free movement of services. This is particularly surprising as services account for almost 70% of the European Union’s GDP, and the free movement of services would undoubtedly accelerate the rate of GDP growth in the old Member States as well as in the new ones.
Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, let us imagine the follow-up to our work. It is time we reminded ourselves that we are in a codecision procedure here. Cleverly, our colleague, Mr Harbour, was able to abandon the idea of a parliamentary victory, which was the likely outcome but which led straight to the slow agony of drafting a crucial text on services. His tour of the European capital cities confirmed to him what we already know. The compromise drafted with Mrs Gebhardt – to whom I should like to pay tribute - is the only one possible within the Council and between Parliament and the Council. There is no qualified majority vote within the Council for the kind of internal market that some people want. To persist in wanting this kind of market would be a Pyrrhic victory.
What, moreover, is chiefly apparent is that the difference between us has become a difference between the East and the West. On the basis of this observation, it is the logic of enlargement that is today called into question. Let us not forget that the failure of the Services Directive would be added to a list that includes the collapse of the Constitution, the concerns about the financial perspective and the doubts about the Lisbon Agenda.
We must now participate in a reconciliation strategy in order to keep the Community ambition alive. I identified a real problem in the discrimination felt by the new Member States when faced with the restrictions imposed on the free movement of workers. I want helpfully to say to those countries that it is not by rejecting the compromise and thus, in the long run, the Services Directive or by bringing into question the Posting of Workers Directive that they will overcome this discrimination – quite the opposite. That was the thinking behind the work that we, in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, carried out under the aegis of Mrs Van Lancker when we deleted Articles 24 and 25 from the initial text.
From now on, we must solemnly call for the moratorium to be abandoned and for all the restrictions on the free movement of workers from the new Member States to be lifted. It would also be worthwhile linking these issues during the Council debate on the Services Directive. However, a study of the text has also demonstrated the many shortcomings in the Community’s legal arsenal. Some Members have voiced legitimate fears, and these fears must be dealt with. Let us take stock of the undeniable progress constituted by this text, because our job as legislator has only just begun.
Edit Herczog (PSE). –(HU) In the year I was born, President Kennedy said, ’Ich bin ein Berliner’. At the time, everybody understood this and agreed with him that the division of East and West was a historical transgression. If I said today, ‘Ich bin ein Polish plumber’, I wonder whether all of us would realise that the issue is still the unity of Europe, and whether we would all agree.
The Services Directive extends beyond interests and it addresses values. It addresses the four fundamental freedoms laid down in the Treaty of Rome, and equal opportunities. In 21st century Europe it is unacceptable to discriminate against a service provider on the basis of origin, nationality or mother tongue.
An important goal is to reduce the number and vulnerability of those who are forced into the black or grey economy. We want a better Europe! We want a Europe where service providers enjoy legal certainty in the Member States. We want a better Europe, where service providers can create European jobs and meet consumer needs legally. We must create a certain, stable and clear legal background. This is particularly important for small and medium enterprises. The Socialist MEPs of the new Member States have always made a point of supporting this common interest of Europe. We have been constructive, we accepted the total removal of labour law from the Directive. We acknowledged that instead of the country of origin, we must regulate the freedom of the provision of services. We acknowledged that the Directive may not come into conflict with other, existing European legal standards, and it cannot overwrite the Treaty. We cannot loosen the certain, stable and clear framework that is being established. We cannot accept any undefined exceptions, because these would leave room for the arbitrary decisions of Member States.
We do not support the total removal of public services of an economic nature, but we are ready to examine sectoral exceptions individually. We recognise and indeed welcome the protection that European consumers are entitled to everywhere and at all times, but we do not accept that consumer protection should restrict the freedom of service provision. And last but not least: in the challenge of global competition, Europe cannot afford to spend the jointly produced GDP on administrative supervision.
Karin Riis-Jørgensen (ALDE). – (DA) Mr President, this is a fateful time for Europe. On Thursday we have two choices. Either we can demonstrate, in particular, the long sought-after solidarity with our new Member States and show that we take the citizens of Europe seriously, together with consumers’ desire for more and cheaper alternatives and the demand for more jobs, or we can dupe Europeans by adopting a Services Directive at any price, involving the lowest common denominator, and by adopting a document that changes none of the current protectionist conditions in the services area – a document that does not even preserve the status quo but that, to top it all, is a retrograde step inasmuch as it creates still more obstacles for our businesses.
The Commission, has, unfortunately, already made its choice, Mr McCreevy, and contributed unhelpfully to the compromise between the two big groups. I had fully expected the Commission to have been the standard-bearer for a genuine internal market for services which is, of course, the very cornerstone of the Commission’s high-profile Lisbon process. The big groups’ compromise will under no circumstances bring the EU closer to its citizens, which is of course what we normally strive to do. Only a genuine internal market for services can create the jobs we need so much in Europe. Anything else is marketing gone wrong.
We must repudiate in no uncertain terms the scare campaigns, misinformation and manipulation in which certain circles – some of them in this Chamber – have engaged on the subjects of social dumping, mass unemployment and other outrages. Their action is scandalous.
Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, as many Members have pointed out, the European Commission’s initial proposal is socially dangerous, badly drafted and legally complicated. In short, it is exactly the opposite of a sound piece of legislation, that is to say of one that is beneficial to the European project and to Europeans.
We, in this Chamber, represent the citizens. There were many tens of thousands of them this afternoon in the streets of Strasbourg. I believe that the demonstration was a healthy exercise in democracy in which the shadow rapporteurs and the rapporteurs took part with the aim of rejecting the directive as it stands and of proposing some substantial changes to its content.
The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance obviously wants a European market in services, but is categorically opposed to its being governed by competition between national laws, which is what the country of origin principle implies and which, in fact, would result in downwards harmonisation. That is why we will vote in favour of the proposal. We have, moreover, tabled some amendments that break with the country of origin principle and that exclude services of general economic interest from the scope of the directive.
Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL). – (The speaker spoke Irish)
I urge you to reject the services directive. The recent Irish ferries dispute illustrated what the future could hold for workers and workers’ rights under the services directive and similarly many of Commissioner McCreevy’s public comments in recent times have highlighted dangers to workers’ rights and collective bargaining.
The directive commercialises almost all services within the EU. It will deprive millions of quality public services. It disproportionately affects women, both as the majority of workers in the service sector and as users of those services, and I agree with points made this evening about decisions ending up with the Court of Justice. People marched in their tens of thousands today to oppose this, but we put governments on notice: the struggle will be at its most intense at national level.
Dariusz Maciej Grabowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, the European Union’s growth rate has been falling for years, and recently it has dropped below 2% a year. The world is leaving us behind because when it comes to competing at global level, it is those who contrive to lower costs and prices and create new products that take the upper hand.
The European Union is falling behind as it has a costly agricultural sector and an erroneous, economically costly and ineffective policy of subsidising that sector. The Union also has a costly industrial sector. It is burdened by excessive social privileges, the common customs policy, and expensive bureaucratic regulations. Most importantly of all, the Union has expensive services. The services sector creates the most jobs, but cheaper service providers are prevented from accessing the market.
The attempt to hold up the liberalisation of services is reminiscent of the attempt to hold up the flow of cheap consumer goods from Asia. It is expensive and ineffective. It is expensive because it requires a sprawling administrative system, and it is ineffective because it contributes to the boom in illegal services that is detrimental to workers. Those who defend the existing European Union provisions on services argue that they are fighting for their citizens’ jobs and fighting against a rise in unemployment. My counter argument is as follows. Consider what happened in Ireland and in Great Britain. Both countries opened up their markets. Did the employment rate increase or decrease? Is unemployment rising or falling? There can be only one conclusion. The state of the services market contributed to accelerating economic development.
I believe that cheaper services are the key to speeding up the Union’s development. Cheaper services would reduce the cost of production and consumption. The market must also be extended and new technologies introduced. Cheap services are the only way to resolve, or at least alleviate, the problem of finding resources for …
(The President cut off the speaker)
Jacek Protasiewicz (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the issue of the challenges facing the European Union in the contemporary world of global competition arises in nearly all the debates held in this Parliament.
We would like Europe to develop in a dynamic fashion and become the most competitive economy in the world in a few years’ time. The citizens of Europe would like this too, and they are confident that the decisions we take in the House are driving the Union towards that goal. We shall fail to live up to these expectations, however, if we do not find the courage to create a genuinely common market that would allow all European firms a chance to grow, regardless of where their headquarters are located. The right conditions for development will never be created if we agree to protectionist practices. These practices are also a form of discrimination, and not just along the East-West divide, though that is where they are most evident. They also tend to be particularly painful for the citizens of the new Member States.
The European economy is crying out for development and the citizens of the Member States are crying out for jobs. The draft directive we are debating today, prepared under the previous Commission, was an appropriate and rational response to these demands. Given that services amount to 70% of the income generated within the Union and provide jobs for the majority of Europeans, we ought to be doing everything in our power to ensure that this sector can develop without unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles. Unfortunately, this is the sector in which the most obstacles to freedom of movement exist. This runs counter to common sense and also to the provisions of the Treaties.
Emotions on the draft directive ran high from the outset. A number of amendments were introduced, and latterly a compromise version was agreed in the course of the work undertaken by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. This really is a far-reaching compromise. It significantly alters the meaning of this text. Further changes to the text, however, will mean shying away from the challenges facing Europe.
The Union will be unable to compete successfully on the global market if it is paralysed by fear of internal competition.
Arlene McCarthy (PSE). – Mr President, my predecessor, Mr Philip Whitehead MEP, would have been proud to have spoken on behalf of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. He would have been proud of the work done by our rapporteur, Mrs Gebhardt, and all the Members who have worked so hard to improve and amend the Commission proposal. He would have wanted to have been here to witness the mature and responsible way in which this Parliament is building a consensus on behalf of our citizens for the opening of the market on services. If we get it right, we can open up the market, boost jobs and growth across the EU and help Europe compete globally with the booming services market in India and China.
The Bolkestein proposal was flawed because it failed to recognise that if you want the public to support the opening-up of the market you have to convince them of the benefits and reassure them that it will not undermine working or consumer rights. If you want to encourage citizens to support change and reform, you have to explain to them what is in it for them, for their own life prospects. It is Parliament which is speaking for the citizen and taking up the issues of all our citizens, businesses, consumers, workers and the unemployed.
So let us make it simple. We need to end the ludicrous discriminatory practices that are stopping our businesses from getting a foothold in the European market. Why should a business have to apply to join a local chamber of commerce, only to be told there is a five-year waiting list? Why should a business have to set up four offices and pay a EUR 500 000 deposit? The black economy is thriving in Europe in the services sector because these complex and costly barriers are encouraging businesses to engage in undeclared and illegal work. Let us make them legal with these rules. Let us get rid of protectionism, but protect consumers and working rights.
I believe consumers can see the benefit of choice and competition if they can be sure that if something goes wrong they can have a speedy remedy in a local court and they do not have to chase down a bad provider to Lisbon, Paris, Warsaw or London to have their rights recognised. This is what we are trying to achieve in these compromises.
Those working in the service sector need the guarantee that their employment rights are protected. This is not about old or new Europe. This is not about left or right. Citizens are looking to us to make the right choice: to get rid of crippling protectionism in the single market in services and protect working and consumer rights. I believe that if we get it right it will be a victory for parliamentary democracy and a boost to jobs and growth for future generations of Europeans.
Finally, I would like to ask the Commission to look at ensuring that these single points of delivery, these one-stop-shops that are so vital to delivering, monitoring and supervising the kind of services we want. It should look at setting up an EU trust mark or an EU quality assurance scheme to give the consumer the trust and the confidence to use these services which respect consumers’ rights and working rights.
Bronisław Geremek (ALDE). – (PL) Mr President, every now and then one of the dozens of decisions taken by the European Parliament stands out as vital to the future of the European Union.
This is true of the Services Directive. It was intended as a way of implementing the principles of the four European freedoms. It is supposed to ensure that there will be no discrimination regarding the provision of services anywhere in the European Union. National origin is to be irrelevant, and the citizens of the old and new Member States are to be treated according to the same principles. Implementation of the directive will promote economic growth and make the European social model more widespread. Implementing economic freedom strengthens the social dimension of Europe rather than weakening it.
Compromise solutions are clearly an essential aspect of Parliament’s work. That is also true in this case, and we should strive for compromise despite our differences of opinion. Nonetheless, there are limits beyond which the Services Directive would become meaningless.
I believe it is rational not to surrender to mercantilism the areas where market logic does not operate. I also believe the statement that the directive does not affect labour law is justified. I do not, however, see any reason to include exemptions from the scope of the directive when they are unjustified and have no clear legal basis. It seems to me that clear legislation is essential in matters of such strategic importance. What is required is a rational decision with a bearing on the future. The spectres of Frankenstein and the Polish plumber should disappear from European consciousness and be replaced by trust, freedom and solidarity.
Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left is calling for the withdrawal of the proposed Bolkestein directive and, in all events, we are seeking the abolition of the principle of the country of origin which is being maintained under the new name of the 'principle of the free provision of services'. The deliberate obscurity of the new wording throws wide open the doors to the negative interpretations by the Court of Justice of the European Communities about which Commissioner McGreevy spoke to us.
We are also calling for services of general economic interest to be expressly exempted from the scope of the directive. We are calling for uniform European specifications and for the prevention of social dumping and unfair competition levered by companies with flexible social and environmental legislation. The fragile compromise between the European right and the socialists, under pressure from reactions and demonstrations by trades union, moderates but does not remove the neo-liberal philosophy and negative charge of the proposal.
The European Left rejects the disguised Bolkestein directive and calls for amendments limiting its adverse repercussions.
Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, the fear generated in the countries of Western Europe by the phenomenon of the ‘Polish plumber’ has manifested itself in successive attempts to weaken the draft Services Directive on liberalisation of the services market. The many compromise amendments agreed mainly in the largest political groups indicate that some of the countries of the old Fifteen do not wish to abide by the principle of the free movement of goods within the Union enshrined in the Treaty. If we take Great Britain and Ireland as examples, however, it can be seen that opening up labour markets to Poland and to the other new Member States is beneficial to national economies.
One can therefore conclude that such strong resistance to the adoption of the directive in its initial form stems from irrational fears verging on xenophobia.
Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, when the European Economic Community called for the abolition of the obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital as the main objectives towards achieving a common or internal market.
In relation to services, however, we have had over 50 years of Member State protectionism and restrictive practices, from complicated bureaucratic hurdles and time delays to financial penalties to obscure qualification requirements. In Austria, foreign ski instructors cannot provide services for more than 14 days. In Belgium and France, emergency repairs can only be done after an eight-day prior notification, which is a contradiction in itself. In order to place temporary pilots and aircraft engineers with an airline in Italy, a EUR 400 000 deposit and the establishment of four offices are required. And each one of those barriers is invariably justified by invoking the specious but emotive defence of preventing a ‘race to the bottom’. Protectionist Member States pose as champions of the workers against social dumping. In practice, they are encouraging a rampant black economy.
In fact, those countries that have embraced the enlarged EU market have grown from strength to strength. Since 1993 the free movement of goods, capital and persons has yielded enormous economic and social gains. Nearly 70% of the working population in Europe is involved in the services sector, which represents 55% of the EU’s GDP, but, at present, services account for only 20% of trade between Member States. The incomplete market has created nearly EUR 1 000 billion of prosperity and 2.5 million additional jobs in Europe. The Services Directive could deliver 600 000 jobs more.
There are a limited number of services – especially health services – that should have sector-specific measures. I welcome Commissioner McCreevy’s undertaking to propose a separate directive on patient mobility and the whole issue of cross-border health service provision. However, I support the remaining provisions of what is already an emaciated directive. It is particularly important that the temporary workers’ agencies are not excluded from the scope, given the extent to which staffing and recruitment agencies are used in a modern, flexible labour market. And why are transport workers and childcare workers excluded?
I support the provisions of Article 16 wholeheartedly ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
Jan Andersson (PSE). – (SV) Mr President, right now, everyone’s attention is on the European Parliament. We have every opportunity to set the political agenda. We must make use of that opportunity and make an impression on this incredibly important directive. This is not the Bolkestein Directive, but a compromise in the making, which is something quite different.
I shall give a few examples from the area covered by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. Labour law, collective agreements and the right to take strike action are not affected by the directive. In the future, it will be possible for Member States to require services companies to have representatives able to conclude collective agreements and be responsible for inspections of the working environment etc. Services for the benefit of everyone, such as health care and medical services, education and social services are exempt from the directive. Nor are temporary agencies affected, and this in anticipation of a separate directive specifically concerned with such agencies.
When it comes to services of general economic interest, it is up to the Member States to decide whether or not they wish to open up such services to competition. If they are, however, opened up in that way, so too should the whole of the internal market be. This is a constructive compromise which combines the merits of the internal market with security in the labour market and, moreover, protects the public services to which people in our Member States and regions currently have access. Some people believe that this is an unclear compromise. How do matters stand at present, however? What happens if we reject the directive? How many cases are languishing in anticipation of decisions by the European Court of Justice instead of being resolved by means of a directive through which we spell out the ground rules? I maintain that this directive would emphatically mean progress. It is clearer than the regulations we have at present, and we should therefore vote in favour of it.
Luigi Cocilovo (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe we are all absolutely convinced of the need to complete the internal market in services, by eliminating barriers, restrictive practices and protectionism. It is a genuine, widespread problem.
The initial proposals of the Bolkestein directive were, however, contradictory and, in many respects, ambiguous and wrong. Its basic mistake was to have given rise to opposing and negative perceptions. On the one hand, there was the impression that the revitalisation of fair competition was essentially being reduced to a carte blanche for social and democratic dumping. On the other hand, because of the perfectly legitimate resistance to such ambiguities, there was a feeling in many countries, especially the new Member States, that the intention was to consolidate or uphold protectionist barriers and obstacles to the free movement of services.
I believe that, on the basis of the compromise texts that have been tabled, those contradictions and failures can now substantially be put right. One justified criticism, perhaps, concerns certain exclusions and derogations for particular sectors, which will have truly adverse effects on the prospects for competitive growth in Europe’s productive, economic and social systems. Those sectors include professional activities, banking, financial and insurance services, and energy supplies.
Many people maintain that this mountain of a directive is likely to give birth to a mouse of a result. To counter that objection I would point out that it is preferable to run that risk than to create a scorpion, since the sting in that little creature’s tail would certainly poison the balance of the European social model.
Vladimír Železný (IND/DEM). – (CS) A commercial television station in the Union told us today that EU workers are protesting against the Services Directive. The report forgot to add that these are workers only from the old Member States, whereas workers in the new Member States, second-class citizens in the EU, want the Directive. Czechs, like others from the new Member States, cannot freely work in Germany and elsewhere. What is truly laughable is the fact that we eat subsidised food from the west and we buy western goods that cross our borders freely and without import taxes. The key article is Article 16, which in the wording of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection carefully acknowledges that providers may come under the regulations of their country of origin, has fallen victim to a compromise between the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. This is not a compromise, however, so much as a castration of the entire Directive. Buck-passing is no way to operate a law by which providers are to be regulated, as it places them in an uncertain legal position. It may involve only a non-binding declaration, but there is extensive reference to public interest as a ground for restricting the activities of service providers. This throws the entire text into confusion, because subparagraph 1 indicates that it should be the law of the country of destination that directly applies, while subparagraph 3 can be construed as stating that it is the law of the country of origin.
If we are to delay exposing our economy even to internal competition within the framework of the EU, how can we expect to compete with the outside world? If we fail to make use of the rapidly developing new Member States to force the pace for greater efficiency in the workplace, we will be depriving ourselves of one of the greatest benefits of Union enlargement.
Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). – (CS) We are on the point of taking a far-reaching decision affecting the fate of one of the basic freedoms of the Union, which has formed part of European law for more than fifty years. At the same time as Europe is opening up to the economies of third countries, the countries of the Union are erecting internal barriers to the mutual provision of services. The moment has come to either knock down these artificial walls or give them our seal of approval, which would be greeted by applause by the trade unionists. The outcome will show how well the Union has coped with enlargement. The Berlin Wall has fallen, the new Member States have opened their markets to goods and services from all over Europe, and yet there are still EU Member States that have not duly implemented European legislation on the free movement of services. These states are hypocritically protecting their markets against mutual competition, in contravention of the law of the Union and the rulings of the courts. We are confronted with Chirac’s idiotic phantom in the form of a Polish plumber, hovering over France and other countries. Now is the time to find out who takes the ideas of the Lisbon Strategy and the flexible market seriously, and who does not.
On what will the opposition be basing their arguments, I wonder. They have not presented us with any studies, but have rather used the rapporteur to foist false impressions on trade unionists. It is simply not true that the Directive will transform labour laws, nor will it amend laws on workers’ programmes or undermine their protection. On the contrary, all of the studies show that it will bring 600 000 new jobs, EUR 37 billion for the economy and an end to discrimination. The proposed watering down of the Directive and surrender of country of origin principle goes against the interests of everyone, including consumers, and it would also represent an ideological blow to the concept of deregulation and continuing harmonisation. Our experience with the movement of goods has shown that such an option is unworkable. The Member States would never agree on it, and more importantly, through bringing further regulation rather than simplification and flexibility, it would only delay the goal of a successful Europe operating within the framework of a global economy. The Directive thus provides a test of whether we favour short-term national protectionism or a common European prosperity.
IN THE CHAIR: MR COCILOVO Vice-President
Barbara Weiler (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, far from doing any credit to the principle of better regulation, this directive, in fact, does the opposite. It is you, Commissioner, who must bear responsibility for the annoyance, indeed the indignation of almost all groups in European society, and for what we just heard about from Mrs Roithová – the playing off of Members from the East and West against one another. We are not talking about raising the drawbridge. The internal market is not an end in itself. That is why we needed the three major exceptions: the Posting of Workers Directive, the Temporary Workers Directive, which must remain an exception for as long as the Council keeps the European directive on ice, and in particular the Professional Qualifications Directive, adopted by all of us here in this House.
An efficient internal market without barriers and without discrimination, with fair framework conditions, is a win for Europe – for providers, service providers, consumers and employees. But that is certainly not what this directive gives us. I would particularly like to thank the European Trade Union Confederation, which has been working with us to advocate protection, without falling into the trap of national narrow-mindedness. The solution is not to reject, but to reshape.
Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, first of all, I should like to say that this is not about the East against the West, because I come from the West and I am all in favour of the Services Directive. We should not lose sight of the directive’s objective, which is to break down unnecessary barriers for small and medium-sized companies, enabling them to offer their services in other countries. With a watered-down directive as proposed by the Socialists and some members of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, we are at risk of battening up the markets even more. Whilst we should protect valuable social achievements, we should not indulge in protectionism, nationalism and certainly not xenophobia.
In the global economy, it is important to strengthen the European market, rather than fragment and weaken it. The services market offers marvellous opportunities to many, and innovative and quality jobs can be created in the services sector.
The debate reeks of hypocrisy, for, while the old Member States in the West fear competition from the East, they forget that Western undertakings have been doing business in Eastern Europe for the past 15 years, and have been doing very well out of it.
The directive must be adopted with the widest possible scope, which means that services of general interest or services of general economic interest – and it is perhaps time we defined those terms – that are currently on offer should fall within its scope without further ado, just like health care, temporary employment agencies and gambling. The country-of-origin principle, even if we change its name, should simply be left alone.
I will vote for this directive only if it results in more free movement of services. A compromise that intends to batten up the markets even more will not receive my vote.
Charlotte Cederschiöld (PPE-DE). – (SV) Mr President, Commissioner, this is a huge step for the EU and a small step for free trade. Whether or not it is a step forward will depend on the vote on Thursday. There are too many exemptions, and the principle must not be unduly weakened. It is important for small companies, and it is especially important for small countries. Without added value, the compromise will be worthless. The Commission therefore has a special responsibility in the ongoing work.
EU protectionism that hides itself behind social policy or consumer protection is preposterous. Allow me to give two examples. Anyone wanting to build 25 identical private houses in Germany has to submit 25 plans to the authorities for approval and pay 25 times over, in spite of the fact that it is exactly the same house that is to be built. Is that sensible? No, it is expensive for the consumer and it is absurd. If a group of Swedish tourists goes on holiday to Greece accompanied by a diving instructor, the person concerned must actually be able to speak Greek. Otherwise, he is not allowed to work with, and talk to, a Swedish group in Greece, in spite of the fact that none of the group speaks any Greek. That really is idiotic.
We therefore need better rules for the cross-border trade in services. We can improve this compromise on Thursday by reducing the number of exemptions and also including private health care. We should, then, carry through what the Austrian Presidency says it is seeking, namely an ambitious Services Directive that contributes to increased prosperity for us all.
Maria Matsouka (PSE). – (EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the debate on services in the internal market could be made beneficial, if you were to centre the debate on the harmonisation of employment arrangements, with the objective of their maximum possible improvement and the convergence of economic structures and technological capabilities.
However, this specific proposal for a directive, on the pretext of institutional deficits and emergent malfunctions, is trying to impose a strategy alien to social interests, which aims to further strengthen capital and reverse the working-class achievements.
European socialists are engaging in an historic battle. Any attempts to find compromises for a better legislative text will fall wide of the mark, given that, if we take account of the recent circumstances, there is no reason to believe that a pro-worker or development regulatory framework will be achieved which will safeguard the Union's social model.
The principle of the country of origin is the principle that will ultimately be applied, given that the Article 16 at issue, which constitutes the essence and the basic weapon of the directive, does not radically amend it and services of general economic interest are not in essence exempted from the scope of the directive.
At a time when it is assumed that we want to get closer to the citizens, by trying to simplify Community law, we are being called on to adopt a text with very serious ambiguities and contradictions, a text which, in trying to please everyone, does not clarify crucial matters which ultimately the courts will inevitably have to clarify.
There is too little time for further technical analysis, but the essence is that the economic liberalism which informs the entire text is not a one-way street.
Diana Wallis (ALDE). – Mr President, so much has been said today, but my hope is that whatever form of compromise we vote on Thursday, it will represent a step forward. I hope that it will underline and take forward the long-standing basic Treaty freedom to provide services, and that at last we will make this existing freedom more of a reality than it has been to date. However, let us learn one clear lesson for the future from all of this: a matter of such importance deserves thorough and long-standing preparation, particularly preparation of Europe’s public – the citizens we seek to represent and who in large number we seem to have managed to antagonise over this proposal.
Compare this with 1992: the years of preparation, the number of separate pieces of legislation, the final and general excitement to welcome the free market in goods. Contrast that with this present method: one far-reaching proposal for a directive literally dumped on the table at the end of the last mandate. This cannot be the way to do things. I hope indeed that we will learn the lesson for the future about communicating Europe. '
Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, we are today debating one of the most significant legislative acts for the future of Europe. It may well lead to a new dimension for the Union, but it will be one in line with the founding fathers’ original vision. The criticisms voiced by certain opponents of this directive are only loosely related to its draft. In fact, they are an effort to call a halt to the economic integration of Europe on the basis of four fundamental freedoms.
We cannot go along with hypocrisy and calls for the restrictions on enterprises’ freedom to provide services and for restrictions on consumers’ freedom to access these services, all under the pretext of protecting national sovereignty. Neither can we go along with the proposal to take yet another step backwards from the current legal situation, and the jurisprudence of the Court this year, by limiting the scope of application of the directive and continuing to allow national administrations complete freedom to impose new barriers and retain existing ones.
We are also concerned that, in certain Member States, the debate has centred on the Polish plumber and on the Latvian or Portuguese construction worker, whilst genuinely discriminatory administrative barriers are actually the most serious problem. The single internal market is still plagued by divisions between the old Europe and the new Europe. Many Member States implement discriminatory practices with regard to service providers from other Member States. This tendency has become even more marked since the enlargement of the Union. The result of the discriminatory restrictions affecting the cross-border flow of services is that small and medium-sized enterprises are missing opportunities to develop and create jobs.
Europe needs a sound Services Directive with a wide scope of application, a strong Article 16 and indeed Articles 24 and 25. Such a directive would only remove administrative barriers and would not impact on the Directive concerning the posting of workers, contrary to what everyone is being led to believe. Europe needs a Services Directive that will ensure the provisions of the Lisbon Strategy do not simply remain on paper. A clear and unambiguous text is required if we are to achieve this aim.
Thanks to Parliament’s work, parts of the text that were unclear have been improved, but we must not create new difficulties as we vote on the draft. The original sense and purpose of the directive must not be sacrificed in the interests of what are often far-reaching compromises. Protectionism does not create jobs. Protectionism is an evil short-sighted instrument with which to defend workers’ rights. It is a manifestation of the national bureaucracies’ lack of political ability to face up to the challenges of the real economic and political world.
Proinsias De Rossa (PSE). – Mr President, first of all I want to congratulate the rapporteur, Mrs Gebhardt, Mrs Van Lancker and their shadows in the other groups for the excellent work they have done in seeking to strengthen the services directive.
It is obvious to most people in this House that a race to the bottom in any area will not win the allegiance, or indeed build the confidence of European citizens in the European project. I had hoped that Commissioner McCreevy here today would have demonstrated that he had understood that message, but unfortunately his remarks with regard to services of general economic interest do not encourage me to believe that he has.
To those who want to vote symbolically against Bolkestein for domestic reasons, I say fine. But then please support the broad progressive majority in this Parliament to deliver a ‘de-Bolkesteined’ directive by supporting the key compromise amendments which have been painstakingly negotiated. This House will be abdicating its responsibility by refusing to adopt the amended directive now on offer and leaving our services market, our labour rights, our consumer rights and our environmental rights in this area to the uncertainty of case-by-case decisions of the European Court of Justice. It is not elected to make law – we are.
Finally, to Mrs de Brún, who has now left this House, I would say that if she wants to prevent an Irish Ferries-style race to the bottom in the services area, then she should, as an obligation, vote for the amendments that she will be offered here tomorrow, as a first step – not as the only step, but as a first step – to prevent what she fears.
Šarūnas Birutis (ALDE). – (LT) In my opinion, the Services Directive is the most important document, which the European Parliament will adopt during this term. Why? Because it is a unique indicator of changes in European thinking. We will see if Europe is ready to establish the internal market, ready to liberalise it and legitimise the fundamental provision of the European Union. It is a pity that the declarations of the Lisbon Goals still fail to be matched with real actions. Fear of change, competition and fear of voter pressure still have an effect on the actions of politicians. There is no need to threaten people with the destruction of a social model; we must talk to them about reality and the changes that are necessary if Europe is to be competitive. Sooner or later we will liberalise the market, but a delay may be disastrous. And social welfare in the European Union is like water in connected flasks. At the moment, social welfare is available only across the entire European Economic Area. Compromises are possible and necessary to a certain degree. I believe that the country of origin principle should remain in essence. We really must trust one another.
Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) The European Parliament has seldom been as much in the spotlight as now, when it is poised to decide on this important Directive. The result of our vote is being awaited by the European Commission, the Council, small and medium-size enterprises and labour unions. This is a gratifying outcome of democracy and an acknowledgement of those that represent Europe’s citizens. However, it requires a good measure of responsibility. We are about to decide on a Services Directive that represents a new lease of life and a new dynamism for the revised Lisbon Strategy.
The Services Directive will directly benefit small and medium-size enterprises, primarily by simplifying and facilitating the provision of services in other Member States. Complete services market liberalisation is particularly important to the new Member States. I am therefore in favour of the articles on worker assignment being reinstated in the Directive.
I would like to praise the work of the shadow rapporteur, Mr Malcolm Harbour, who has managed, on the basis of an agreement between right-wing and liberal factions, to maintain the country-of-origin principle, and also called ‘the freedom to provide services’, while the Member States may turn down a service provider for reasons of health protection and environmental conservation.
However, I have a problem with the compromise amendment that includes, in particular, the possibility of registering a reservation for reasons of consumer protection or social policy, as this enables the authorities in the country of destination to block access to a service provider from another Member State at any time, and thereby negates the country-of-origin principle. It seems to me that the public discourse on this Directive has focused too much on criticism of the country-of-origin principle.
Very little has been written up to now about the substantive benefits of the Directive, which simplifies administrative cooperation, and establishes single point of contact or a standard form available in electronic format. In conclusion, allow me to express my thanks to the rapporteur, Mrs Evelyn Gebhard, for her hard work in drafting the report.
Ieke van den Burg (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, since the compromise that is before us is in the spirit of the best Dutch tradition of combining open markets with a reasonable level of social protection, it enjoys the full support of my delegation. Our Economic Affairs Minister recently said that his main concern was that there were so many exceptions in the directive. I cannot share his concern and would like to explain why some of those exceptions are very valid to my mind.
First of all, with regard to the exclusion of health care and other sectors that are governed by an excessive number of compelling reasons of general interest, those are sectors which I think are better off being regulated on an individual basis, and it is also necessary that a horizontal framework directive be adopted for services of general interest, which clearly spells out the powers of non-central authorities, with a view to imposing rules on sectors of this kind for reasons of general interest.
Another sector I should like to touch upon is that of temporary employment. As you know, we reached a marvellous compromise on this very subject in this House four years ago, one that enjoyed broad support from us but has since been with the Council, frozen, for a long time. For the temporary employment sector too, the directive we came up with then and which struck a balance between protection and opening up markets, was a much better basis for imposing European legislation on the relevant sector with more accuracy and care, and I should like to ask Mr McCreevy to deliver on his commitment and to create legislation in the areas of health care and temporary employment that is different from this directive’s.
Luisa Fernanda Rudi Ubeda (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, there has been much talk this evening about the need to open up the services market in the European Union and also the need to remove obstacles to the achievement, or implementation, of some of the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy. To this end, this services directive is not just a necessary instrument but also an essential one.
What requirements should this directive, this text, have in order to fulfil the role we have set for it, however? In my view, firstly, it should set some clear criteria, which provide everybody with legal security, both consumers and entrepreneurs and, in particular, small and medium-sized businesses, which make up the majority — some 80 or 90% — of the European Union’s business fabric. And furthermore, this text - which should offer legal certainty and, I repeat, be clear - needs to be applied to all of the countries of the European Union.
I must say that, in my opinion, the text approved in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection met these requirements. I have to say, however, that, at this point, I have my doubts as to whether the compromise texts that have been agreed meet the requirements of clarity and legal certainty.
Finally, Mr President, I would like to make a brief observation. This evening, some people have tried to set two models for Europe against each other. Those who claim to defend the European social model — and who set themselves up as its only defenders — want to set their position against that of those of us who advocate the need for competition and competitiveness.
I would like to say that the best kind of social policy is one that generates economic growth and creates jobs. I would like to say that the only possible danger to the European social model is a European Union without economic growth, clinging to old prejudices and incapable of competing with other economies, because, if we do not grow, it will be impossible to maintain our social policy.
Dariusz Rosati (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the European Union is based on four fundamental freedoms. These are the freedom of movement of goods, capital, the workforce and services. These pillars of the European Community were agreed back in 1958 because even then it was already clear that they were the sine qua non of the genuine integration of Europe.
Several decades have gone by but there is still no free movement of services in Europe. The main reason for this situation is the weakness of the political class. Politicians have been either unable or unwilling to explain to the citizens that the freedom to provide services results in new jobs and faster economic growth. Instead of clarifying the meaning of the enlargement of the European Union and highlighting the opportunity offered by competition, politicians have opted to alarm the voters with the spectres of social dumping, the so-called Frankenstein Directive and the notorious Polish plumber.
This is the background to today’s debate on the Services Directive in this House. The adoption of the directive will make life easier for consumers and entrepreneurs, accelerate economic growth and create 600 000 new jobs in Europe. Unfortunately, the directive is under increasing attack from those of a populist and protectionist persuasion. We have heard time and again that opening up the services market will result in social dumping and poorer working conditions, but these views are totally unfounded.
A compromise is still possible, however. I would remind the House that issues relating to employment and labour law have been removed from the scope of the directive, which should allay the fears expressed by the Trade Unions. Services of public interest have also been excluded. I believe that this will ensure a balance between the need for competitiveness and the need to protect labour rights. I therefore appeal to the European Parliament to adopt the directive as it now stands. It will allow competition to be strengthened and the labour markets to be opened up. It will also make life easier for consumers and businesses.
Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I have two pieces of bad news, two pieces of good news and one recommendation. The first piece of bad news is that I am rather saddened by the debating atmosphere that we have in Europe today. It is one of protectionism, nationalism, near-racism and xenophobia. To me, as a pro-European and as a federalist, protectionism is anti-European.
My second piece of bad news concerns the Commission. I am a big fan of the Commission. I always support it. However, Mr McCreevy, trust me: do not have your office call upon me to water down the Services Directive. It is your job to defend the Services Directive, not to defend protectionism. Your office wanted to make this into not the freedom to provide services, but into the freedom to prevent services. Please let that be the last time!
The good news is, first, that I believe we will have a compromise tomorrow. I believe we will move forward. We need this directive. The second piece of good news is that we might get a broad majority in the European Parliament. I hope that the Austrian Presidency can get a broad majority in the Council.
My final point is a recommendation: my modest recommendation is to approve the compromise on Article 16 as it stands between the PSE and the PPE-DE Groups, as long as we get three things into the directive: firstly, health services; secondly, temporary working agencies; thirdly, posting of workers. Those are essential.
I believe that the way in which this debate has gone is very unfair. We see it as a case of old versus new. It is not. It is about protectionism and liberal markets. I am afraid that some of us are losing it.
Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I believe that Mrs Wallis hit the nail on the head when she said that the Commission has worked badly on this issue. At the end of the last legislature, they suddenly presented us with a piece of legislation equivalent to the entire package that Delors had prepared for the liberalisation of goods between 1988 and 1992.
Furthermore, this proposed directive from the Commission does not even deal with the liberalisation of services, because the central issue is the liberalisation of the labour market. That is to say, Article 16, in relation to the principle of country of origin, is not going to liberalise services; its intention is to liberalise the labour market, because there are certain concessions made by the then Commissioner that run counter to social protection, environmental protection and consumer protection.
This Parliament has therefore had great difficulty: it has taken us two years of work. The main rapporteur, Mrs Gebhardt, has worked extremely hard, as have the shadow rapporteurs, including Mrs Van Lancker. I believe, however, that Parliament is currently on the point of presenting a genuine directive on the liberalisation of services. It must not be mixed up with the labour issue, which is causing so much argument at the moment.
The proposed services directive, which I believe will be approved on Thursday as a result of the agreement between the two big political groups, is now going to enable services to be liberalised, in accordance with normal procedures. We must remember that we already have areas in which services have been liberalised. Services have been liberalised in relation to transport, communications, audiovisual transmissions and professional activities. We must continue along this route.
If this directive is approved by the Council — and, as Mr Stubb said, I hope that the Commission will approve the European Parliament's proposals — it will actually enable services to be liberalised.
Furthermore, one of the amendments introduced calls upon the Commission, in agreement with social actors, to present concrete proposals for the liberalisation of services within five years. If the Commission approves Parliament’s amendments, the Council could agree to it and we could see the beginning of a genuine liberalisation of services.
Konstantinos Hatzidakis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I personally had many reservations about the initial text which the European Commission presented two years ago. Nonetheless, any reservations which anyone had are no longer very important, because this text has been amended a great deal by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection of the European Parliament and I think that it will be amended even more by plenary the day after tomorrow.
The Commission first presented a text with a great many exaggerations and a great deal that missed the mark and, in this way, did injustice to the idea of completing the internal market in the European Union. In other words, it did not seek in the right way to overcome any administrative and legislative obstacles in order to facilitate investments in this sector. A correct objective was wronged by the policy, mainly the communications policy, of the European Commission. This provoked reactions from various social groups, whereas the OECD maintains that a rational opening-up of services in the Member States could create 2 500 000 new jobs and increasing European GDP accordingly by 1.8%. The Committee on the Internal Market has made material interventions both in the scope of the directive and in workers' rights and I think that the amendments tabled by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, improve the text of the directive still further, address certain problems with the initial country of origin and create the preconditions for broad social and parliamentary consent.
The objective of the majority of MEPs, of all the Member States and of the European trades union is not to reject any form of directive on services, but to have a better directive on services and I think that, all together, we shall achieve that.
Bernadette Vergnaud (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by paying tribute to the work of our rapporteur, Mrs Gebhardt, who has, in actual fact, succeeded in completely rewriting the text.
How should I go about telling you, Mr Barroso, that Europeans have had enough of this Europe of social dumping? Using language related to the country of origin principle, perhaps? Despite some important advances such as the preservation of the Posting of Workers Directive and the exclusion of health care and services of general interest, I regret that SGEIs and social services are still not excluded. I refuse to see these public service tasks made subject to the rules of the competitive market.
Similarly, it would be very useful to have labour law excluded from Article 2 so as not to cause a dangerous dispute. Even if, in the end, the country of origin principle is no longer mentioned, the proposed compromise will hand over the actual power of the legislator to the Community judge, who will decide the direction in which European social policy is steered. Applying the country of destination principle to the exercise of service activities and the country of origin principle only to the right of access would have been preferable.
As for those who falsely claimed that voting against the draft European Constitution meant the death of the Bolkestein Directive, the current situation shows them that, on the contrary, this directive is still very much alive and that it requires us to be extremely vigilant and to keep on fighting.
Stefano Zappalà (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, once again we are addressing a topic that is important for truly creating the internal market.
I was the rapporteur for the directive on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts, on which some 800 amendments were tabled, and for the directive on the recognition of professional qualifications, on which some 600 amendments were tabled. In both cases I worked with Mr Harbour and Mrs Gebhardt, as well as many others. The results we achieved enjoyed such broad support that last May the latter directive was adopted unanimously by both Parliament and the Council, with just two Member States abstaining. I should once again like to thank both colleagues.
The principles behind the two directives are analogous to the principles that should be inspiring the services directive, and their aims are the same. Unfortunately, the Prodi Commission’s proposal incorporated neither the reasoning nor the content that made Parliament have to rewrite the two directives, just as today we are being forced to rewrite the directive we are examining.
We all want the market to be opened up for work as well as for goods and money, but we believe that that should be done once again by harmonising the national systems themselves and not by overturning everything. The five-year-maximum revision clause allows for gradual transitions.
We want this directive without trauma or ideological clashes, and so we are hoping for a cautious approach with common-sense political solutions. The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection has already stated a position that I share and, from my personal experience in this field, I do not appreciate those who, rather than seek a compromise, want to reject the whole idea, thus going against the Treaties. On the other hand, I do appreciate the compromises that have been reached, and I hope that this directive too will enjoy a large majority. Lastly, I should like to thank Mrs Gebhardt again for the work she has done.
Joel Hasse Ferreira (PSE). – (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is a crucial debate for Europe’s future, which resonates in the economic, social and political spheres. The compromise solution obtained between the main political groups strikes me as a well-balanced one.
It is vital that the application of the country of origin principle, temporary work in the areas of health, other social areas, services of general interest, and lotteries be removed. It is also vital that the criteria relating to the services of general interest be made abundantly clear, completely removed or set out by each individual Member State. As in this compromise, I naturally wish to highlight the importance of not interfering with the directive on the posting of workers.
Ladies and gentlemen, whilst it is necessary to press ahead with building the internal market, it is no less important to guarantee fair competition in all Member States, not by fomenting social inequality, and certainly not by distorting labour markets or by dismantling labour relations, but by cutting through red tape and by breaking down unjustifiable technical barriers.
Although this process of establishing the internal market in services is very important for Europe’s economic development, the rules ensuring European social cohesion must be complied with. If this did not happen with the initial version of the directive, we can now, as Members of this House, adopt a text that will make a balanced and lucid contribution to the creation of a genuine European market in services that will, at the same time, guarantee social cohesion.
To this end, clarity and courage are of the essence.
José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, I shall begin by saying that I am going to vote in favour of the compromise, that I much prefer the compromise to the original directive, and that I shall focus on a single issue: the reimbursement of costs generated by a citizen from one Member State for services they have received in another Member State.
If the President will allow me to employ the case method, I shall use the example of the Valencian Community, although I could be referring to any other region, an Italian region for example.
We receive more tourists every day; every day more European citizens acquire a second home there; every day we receive more citizens who come to be treated in our Valencian Community, exclusively, given the quality of its medical services. This pressure poses a threat to the health services. This financial pressure is difficult for us to endure.
On numerous occasions, the Court of Justice has acknowledged that, pursuant to Articles 49 and 50 of the EC Treaty and the regulations implementing them, the Member State providing medical services has the right to be reimbursed by the State of the citizen being treated. But in practice the reality is that this right is not respected, that this right is a purely rhetorical statement.
The Commission has taken the view that this Directive is a good instrument for making this right a reality, and this view is enshrined in Article 23. At the moment, I do not know what the situation is with Article 23 or the amendments intended to remove it. I shall simply express my desire that this article be retained as drawn up by the Commission. I would call upon the Commissioner not to restrict himself to making a formal statement promising once again that the problem will be resolved. We want this article to be approved as it is, and that is how I shall vote.
Mia De Vits (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, there are those who think that we have given misleading information about the directive. Today, I am delighted that, with the amendments, we have made sweeping changes to the Bolkestein directive. I wonder, though, whether, with this amended document, we are providing for legal certainty. Along with many others, I fear that we are not.
Commissioner McCreevy, you would be able to win us over if you said to us today that the services of general economic interest are best kept outside of the scope of this directive, but you have stated the opposite. You do not breathe a word about a framework directive on services of general interest.
In conclusion, in our final verdict, we will take into consideration the fact that the directive that is before us is anything but harmonised – quite the reverse, in fact. A decision has been made in favour of legislation on the basis of the differences between the 25 Member States, and I do not consider that to be the right way to go about the integration of markets.
József Szájer (PPE-DE). – (HU) Some say that a watered-down directive is still better than nothing. However, this is not true, because there is a limit beyond which we are no longer helping the free provision of services, but creating further obstacles in its way. Unfortunately, a few amendment proposals submitted last week are doing just this. If we vote for them, we will destroy the essence of this proposal.
We have a lot to lose, because in the past decades the European Court of Justice has repeatedly protected the rights of service providers against restricting attempts made by Member States. If we now accept a directive full of new obstacles that are conflicting with the spirit and letter of the founding Treaties of the European Union, we cannot hope that the Lisbon Programme, intending to create jobs and new European growth, would be successful, because we would actually restrict this market for another 30 years.
The new Member States have already opened their capital and goods markets a few years ago. This was not an easy decision. We, too, could have said that our economies were too weak and unfit for competition. This is why many of us, MEPs from new Member States, are shocked to see that now, when we should be jointly opening the services market, several old Member States with a strong economy are hesitating.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now your turn. Will you stand by one of the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union, or not? A strong Services Directive would be good for small and medium enterprises, it would be good for old and new Member States, and it would be good for all the citizens of Europe. Fellow Members, let us wipe out from the draft all endeavours restricting a free services market! We, Hungarians, can only support a directive that does more than preserving the Treaty of Rome principle concerning free services in name only.
Pier Antonio Panzeri (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the directive we are debating will doubtless be remembered for the tortuous and difficult path it has followed.
The directive has been openly and strongly criticised right from the start. It is no coincidence that even today a large European trade union demonstration has been vehemently pointing out that, for the sake of the European labour market, Europe needs to have a services directive that completes the internal market without damaging social cohesion. We in Parliament have been working along these lines in order to contribute to development and growth in the important services sector in Europe, without ever losing sight of the social dimension that Europe must have and the need not to put off the harmonisation process indefinitely.
The amendments that have been introduced and the compromise we have reached to a great extent address the questions and demands that have been raised concerning both working rights and the so-called country-of-origin principle. There are still some unresolved issues, however, including services of general economic interest, which I hope will find a solution during the final vote, on the basis of the amendments that have been tabled.
I definitely think that some good work has been done so far, thanks in part to Mrs Gebhardt. We have not shrunk from confronting the issues, but rather we have helped to identify a number of possible solutions and we intend to remain committed even after the vote at first reading.
Thomas Mann (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, following talks with the staff and managers of two dozen small and medium-sized enterprises in Hesse alone, and with representatives of trade unions and employers, things looked gloomy, to be quite honest, for an acceptable Services Directive. In the wake of the one-sided Bolkestein approach, the compromise now reached strikes the right balance between removing obstacles and national barriers in the internal market and the need for social cohesion. Services of general interest should not be liberalised, and nor should any public companies be privatised. Nor will competition law or state aid rules be restricted. Fears that it would result in social and wage dumping are no longer justified.
The new principle of free movement of services provides that the countries in which the services are provided can insist that their national regulations are complied with, and that compliance monitored. That applies to guarantees of public safety and order and to environmental and health protection. The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs gave the process of greater cooperation added impetus, and that is important. We think it is important that industrial safety must not be put at risk and that existing arrangements from tariff agreements must be upheld.
The Posting Directive has priority, which means that the construction sector and other sensitive sectors in the Member States can be protected, and minimum wages can be maintained. In order to prevent business from simply registering a PO Box address in another Member State, a consumer-friendly regulation has been laid down: a branch office will only be recognised if it can be demonstrated to have appropriate infrastructure and a permanent presence.
Many of the slogans at today's demonstration were not up-to-date. People are entitled to protest in public, but they have greater credibility if the content of their protests is accurate. The public, the Commission and the Council are awaiting the decision of this Parliament, and there is an awareness everywhere of how important this House really is. The inter-group compromise is the right way to go. The Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats has been consistent in its basic intention both to give the internal market a new dynamism – with Lisbon as the watchword – and to maintain social standards.
Lasse Lehtinen (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, it is better to accept the proposed compromise than reject it. In any case, this is the starting point for a single, viable labour market.
As legislators, we have to aspire to accuracy and precision. Every vague paragraph in a directive is a potential case for the Court of Justice of the European Communities. When reading the proposal, one has the feeling that the more highly educated or qualified someone is, the more likely his or her field is to fall outside the scope of the directive and be protected from genuine competition.
Europe needs economic growth. Growth is achieved by increasing work or raising production. We cannot oppose social dumping by preventing human mobility, but rather by creating a cross-border system in which anyone who commissions services is responsible for complying with the terms and conditions of employment. How can we think of competing with China or India if we cannot rid our membership area of needless barriers to competition?
Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the European Union is constantly seeking stimuli for development, to help create a Union capable of rising to the challenges of the third millenium. This directive was supposed to make the European Union stronger at global level and better able to compete with other economies the world over. The fact that we are now a Community of 25 countries and not of 15 seems to have been overlooked. Members of this House are increasingly of the opinion that it is the new Member States that are competing against the Union, not China or the USA.
The European Union seems to be afraid of itself. The old Member States that joined forces against this directive have caused a recrudescence of combative jargon. The division between the old and new Union is becoming ever more marked. Once again, the Member States are being divided into better and worse countries. The rich countries support a short-sighted policy based on fear, not on rational indications. Paradoxically, the rich countries that hitherto presented themselves as the strongest advocates of integration are the ones resisting the full implementation of the provisions of the Treaties. They are spreading alarm through references to social dumping from the new Member States and to possible threats to the European social model.
I believe that the new Member States will manage. Economic growth in the eurozone is practically nil, and the economy is developing slowly. Resistance to opening up the services market fully carries with it the risk of losing a key stimulus that would accelerate the Union’s economic growth and create new jobs. To date, the new Member States have been described as moaners. In the two-speed Europe that is now emerging, they must, however, develop ways of responding swiftly to the tactical coalitions against them that are arising more and more frequently.
The original draft of the directive represented a new opportunity for the European Union of 25 Member States. As it now stands, having lost the articles banning discrimination against firms providing services abroad and the country of origin principle, it is gradually losing its meaning and transparency.
Joseph Muscat (PSE). – Mr President, I come from a new Member State. I support the compromise; to do otherwise would be socially and politically myopic. The way in which the majority in Parliament seems to have converged in order to drastically rethink the Services Directive shows the relevance of this institution. We are converting a proposal that could have had disastrous effects on our societies – especially on those most in need – into a much more sensible one. We are still not fully satisfied; we want public services to be clearly excluded and we want clearer safeguards on other sectors. Nevertheless we must admit that we have a much more realistic piece of legislation in front of us. We are renewing our agreement with the principle of freedom of movement of services and facilitating it, but we are agreeing that social rights come first. After our rejection of the Port Services Directive, for the second time in a relatively short period we are showing our commitment to a social Europe. I believe that Mr Whitehead would have been proud of Mrs Gebhardt and the rest of us.
Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, at the stage we are at with this matter this evening, I am aware that it is politically improper to oppose a compromise painstakingly drafted by leaders of two political groups. Each architect of this compromise is claiming victory, which makes me uneasy because I do not like being taken for a fool.
My colleagues swear to me that the country of origin principle is implicit in the compromise text. The Socialist Group in the European Parliament boast that they have nipped it in the bud.
I, like others, regard the country of origin principle and the history of European integration as being intimately connected. Dogmatically rejecting this connection means going against what we are patiently building and means introducing the principle of widespread suspicion.
Of course, this principle would be unable to prevail over all the others because we have controlled and managed it.
We made it clear that the legislation of the country of destination applies to all aspects related to the social sphere. Continuing to talk about an attack on social standards is therefore exceptionally misleading.
We are told not to mix up commercial and non-commercial services. Yet, on this point too, we did mix things up and we ended up toning down the directive, which now includes so many derogations that it would be better to define what it does actually apply to, and not the other way round.
The bottom line is that the rules of the country of destination relating to the posting of workers have never been the subject of dispute. So, what more do people want? To go back on the acquis of the Treaty of Rome?
The compromise on Article 16 hardly confirms these acquis. This is by no means progress! I believe that, in these conditions, rather than picking apart a directive until there is nothing left of it, it would be much better to stick to the version of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.
Mr President, I am not willing to swallow just anything in order to reach a solution that, on the pretext of defending social standards, actually defends protectionist standards, and I will vote accordingly.
Vladimír Maňka (PSE). – (SK ) An hour ago, this House heard that trade unionists only from the old Member States were demonstrating in Strasbourg against the Directive. In fact, they were also joined by colleagues from the new Member States, and those who listened to them carefully saw that they were not at all opposed to the Directive.
Ladies and gentlemen, you remember very well how we recently rejected by a large majority a proposal agreed upon by the Council when approving the Financial Perspective for 2007–2013. At the time, our preference was for European interests over specific self-interests. We were able to unite ourselves in the interest of the entire European Union. I was proud that we had resisted attempts to influence us and that we managed to find agreement in the European Parliament.
A compromise is very important for a fundamental document such as the Services Directive. I think that the rapporteur has done a very good job. In my opinion, we have achieved a number of acceptable compromises. Therefore, I believe that we should vote for what represents a ‘win-win’ situation in support of Europe, offering the best solution for both the old and the new Member States.
Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – (SV) Mr President, having listened to the debate here in plenary, there is good reason for recalling why we need a Services Directive and why we are working to obtain a more open trade in services. It is because we are all basically agreed that an increased trade in services will provide more jobs, more new companies, increased growth and greater competitiveness. On the basis of the debate in this Chamber, it would seem, however, as if many have forgotten this. Free trade in services is something positive, not negative. Unfortunately, the opponents of the directive have succeeded in cutting it back. This means that we shall obtain less competitiveness than we might otherwise have had. It means fewer new jobs and fewer new companies. It is not what Europeans expect.
Together with other Conservatives, I shall support the compromise, not because it is what we are looking for but because it is a step in the right direction. I wish, however, to emphasise that I do not accept the picture presented, in terms of which we are concerned here with a conflict between East and West and between new and old Member States. What we have instead is a division between those who want to see the trade in services produce further European integration and cooperation, borders that are more open and a greater number of new jobs, and those who take a different view.
We shall make efforts to have private health care added to the directive, to have the Posting Directive made clearly and unambiguously open to all and to prevent any discrimination against the people of any country. We shall also endeavour to make it possible to have temporary agencies included in the area covered by the directive. I want to say the following to the Commission: this is a first step, and you have a responsibility to ensure that we take more steps in the direction set out by the Treaty.
Amalia Sartori (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too am taking the floor to explain why I shall vote for this directive, together with the rest of my delegation. We are certain that it represents the beginning of the way ahead and a step forwards in strengthening the idea of completing the internal market.
From that point of view, mine is a safe vote. I should like, however, to comment on what has been happening within the political groups over the last year and a half, and above all in the last few weeks, as well as this afternoon and evening here in this Chamber. It demonstrates – and I want to be perfectly clear about this – that effectively there is a difference within the 25 Member States. It is the difference between those who believe that we can achieve growth and development by taking a gamble and investing in what is new, in innovation, flexibility, the possibility of working in a freer, more open market and, above all, in a market of almost 500 million people, and those who instead believe that what they have achieved so far can best be defended by closing in on themselves.
That has been the real conflict. That is why I hope that the close of this debate will also see an end to the argument based on a division between old and new countries, because there has never been such a division. Instead, there has been a different division, which has led to a directive which, in my view, is only a first step. Nonetheless, I shall vote for it with conviction, because I consider that even a small step forwards is, in any case, important.
Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE). – Mr President, it is rather ironic that we should be debating the Services Directive on Valentine’s Day, because, for the Services Directive – but certainly also for Mr Bolkestein – this must surely be a case of unrequited love.
Last month we overwhelmingly rejected the Port Services Directive and, this time round, we could almost have done the same, were it not for the fact that the Commission proposal will be transformed by this House into a compromise – not the best one, perhaps, but one which can still be workable and which, crucially, strikes a balance between our objective of opening up the services market and our intention of addressing the social concerns that are justified. I stress ‘justified concerns’ because we all know by now that this proposal has been plagued by scaremongering. Coming from a new Member State, this scaremongering seems like déjà vu. In my country, opponents of EU membership used to conjure up nightmare scenarios that foreign workers would invade us and take our jobs. The same Cassandras played the same act in the old Member States too, but now we know that the doomsday scenarios were just not true: they did not materialise, nor will they materialise with the Services Directive.
The opening-up of the services market is good and we should say so loud and clear. It is good for business – in particular for SMEs – and it is good for jobs. We have a reasonable compromise. I say ‘let’s go for it’.
Ivo Strejček (PPE-DE). – Mr President, it is very late at night for such a serious debate and the Commissioner must be tired. I should like to make just a few points which might freshen up the debate, or perhaps make you even more tired, Commissioner!
At the beginning of today’s debate I thought that it might be just an ideological clash between protectionism and an attempt to liberalise the market in services. I admit that I was a dreamer. Unfortunately it is more serious than that: the debate over the watered-down directive is beginning to bear the hallmarks of a clash between the new and the old.
We are used to listening to endless speculation about why people in the Member States do not understand the brave new European ideas. Why should they? I am a Member of the European Parliament representing the Czech Republic and defending the interests of the Czechs. The Czech Republic fully liberalised access to its market in the early 1990s. Many traditional but inefficient companies had to close. That resulted in a higher unemployment rate and heavy political losses. Is it not fair to expect the same of the old Member States? Go to any Czech town situated somewhere on the Czech/Austrian border and try to explain to a local service provider that he or she cannot provide their service in the same way as their Austrian competitors – and I stress, competitors – in their Czech town. I bet you will not succeed. Try to talk about noble European ideals and say in the same breath that they are not allowed to run their businesses freely wherever they choose. The idea of opening the internal market was a brave one, but today’s reality is just the proverbial crying over spilled milk.
I thank the Czech interpreters for their valiant work.
Simon Coveney (PPE-DE). – Mr President, it is difficult to make any real contribution to the services directive debate in a two-minute time-slot. This directive is attempting to achieve a massive amount in one brave step. That is why the debate has been so robust and why all groups have had Members working on this directive almost full time in recent months. In this regard, I want to recognise the work of Mr Harbour in particular, who has put an enormous amount of effort into bringing the compromise wording this far on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.
However, in the intensity of debate on specific amendments, particularly relating to Article 16 on the freedom to provide services, let us not lose sight of the overall objective of what we are trying to achieve. This is the first stage of a process that aims to create a directive that will promote a more open and better-functioning internal market for services. If adopted in the right form, this directive can facilitate growth, job creation and increased economic activity in the services sector.
The reality is that the EU economy needs a kick-start. This directive can contribute to that. Sixty-eight per cent of EU employment and over 60 % of wealth creation comes from the services sector and, therefore, services are the key driver for the sluggish EU economy. In short, this new compromise directive may not give all political groups all of what they want, but it will remove many barriers to cross-border trade and services and reduce the red tape that businesses encounter when they try to expand into other EU countries. A balance between the protection of employment law and collective agreements within the EU Member States and opening up a more efficient market for services has been achieved through compromise.
I hope this Parliament will give a strong mandate to the Commission to carry this directive forward with renewed momentum following Thursday’s vote, and I look forward to seeing a further improved version of this directive before Parliament in the not-too-distant future.
Riccardo Ventre (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it probably goes without saying that the adoption of this directive will be a highly important political event.
If Parliament adopts the directive by a large majority, however, the political signal it sends out will be even more significant, since it will once again confirm the role that we play in the legislative process as mediators between the bureaucracy of Europe and the individuality of each of the Member States. As mediators, we have a duty to balance the demands for liberalisation of the market with the rights of the weaker sections of society.
I consider the compromise of the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament to be valid in leading towards the liberalisation of a sector that accounts for a very great part of our economy, a sector that the Treaty defines as a fundamental freedom. We certainly could have gone further towards liberalisation, but one cannot have everything all at once.
The five-year revision clause will enable us to improve the text and continue the process of liberalisation. With regard to the economic aspect, we have set ourselves ambitious targets in terms of growth and employment.
I should like to comment on certain amendments that have been tabled, especially Amendments 13, 72, 73 and 86. Not only do they exclude services of general interest, but they leave it to the discretion of each individual Member State to define the concepts and the public service requirements to which such services are subject.
Amendment 13, moreover, excludes the obligation for Member States to liberalise such services or to privatise public bodies and existing monopolies, such as lotteries. Amendments 17 and 80 also propose again to exclude games of chance. I believe that we should examine these amendments during the general debate.
John Purvis (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the Commissioner will be relieved that we are getting very close to the end. I am the third to last speaker.
It was last April, in the heat of the run-up to the French referendum vote, that the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy adopted Mr Chatzimarkakis’ opinion on the Services Directive. That opinion challenged the then prevalent hostility to this directive, with the absurdly exaggerated claims about Polish plumbers and social dumping that were then being thrown around.
From its very first directly elected plenary in 1979, this Parliament has championed the cause of a truly free and open single market, as envisaged in the original Treaties. Out of an internal subcommittee of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, of which I was proud to be a member, came the Kangaroo Group and the 1992 single market programme under the Single European Act of 1985.
I find it difficult to understand or justify why services were left out of that enterprise. Now is our opportunity to emulate the courage and foresight of our predecessors and make sure that a real single market in services is implemented. Trade unionists, French ‘no’ voters, French plumbers: truly there is nothing to be afraid of. Just as a single market in goods has provided new, more and better jobs, so will the Services Directive, if we vote through a strong and liberal version. It can provide the opportunities that everyone seeks, especially in SMEs, as an essential element of a successful, competitive and prosperous European economy.
The opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, which took a liberal line, was supported by 34 votes to 6, by conservatives, liberals and even most of the socialists. I hope we can look to Parliament as a whole to adopt a similarly courageous and far-sighted position. Adam Smith was right: freed-up trade works; a really free and open market in services will work and get more and more Europeans back into work.
Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, I would like warmly to thank Commissioner McCreevy and the members of my group, Mr Harbour, Mrs Thyssen and others, who have been fighting to defend a directive and who have had to watch what we considered to be the best aspects of it disappearing before their very eyes.
I must say that we politicians and people in power sometimes fall behind society, and I say this because there are two aspects of the directive that are of great interest to me and that are unfortunately not going to be taken up to a great extent: on the one hand, the recognition of qualifications and freedom to work for skilled people and, on the other, the issue of health.
I believe that in Europe, when people go to another country to work, it is much easier for them to work in manual jobs, in under-recognised jobs, even if they are highly qualified, because corporate egotism does not allow anything else. We have not been able to remove this obstacle.
I would like to talk, secondly, about health. The directive included the facility or obligation to return funds to those residents of one country who receive medical assistance in another. The Mediterranean is packed with millions of Europeans who have gone South in search of sun and a new life, but their right to reimbursement of the funds relating to the social services – and, in particular, health services - they receive is not recognised.
They are in a situation of uncertainty and they are in a difficult situation, but, above all, they have been abandoned by the politicians. And I would say the same with regard to private medicine.
I therefore support the inclusion of private medicine, because we have hundreds of clinics that are treating and assisting the Germans, the British and the Swedes who are in the South and in the Mediterranean. These citizens have the right to speak in their own languages, to be treated in their own languages and to have services provided in their own languages. This situation exists; society has created it, and we do not want to recognise it.
Valdis Dombrovskis (PPE-DE). – (LV) Mr President, Mr McCreevy, ladies and gentlemen, the goal of the Services Directive is to foster economic growth and employment in the European Union. Currently a large number of administrative obstacles impede the effective functioning of the EU internal market. The most negative impact of administrative obstacles and the costs associated with them is on the ability of the SME sector to offer services outside their own countries. The services sector makes up about 70% of the EU economy, and so the removal of administrative obstacles in this sector would give a significant boost to its development. Analysis by the European Commission shows that in the period from 1992 to 2002 measures taken to improve the EU internal labour market and to open up the EU’s internal borders increased the EU’s GDP by 1.8% and created two and a half million new jobs. This increase was mainly achieved by ensuring free movement of goods and liberalising the telecommunications and energy sectors. The European Commission’s analysis also shows that a properly functioning EU internal services market could bring about equal growth in the economy and jobs. It is therefore important to vote for a strong Services Directive which includes the country of origin principle, at least in the variant voted for by the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, maintaining those articles of the directive that lay down the rights of service providers regarding the posting of workers to a country where services are being provided, and also restricting the list of exceptions. Leaving out these principles would considerably distort the meaning of the Services Directive, and opportunities for additional EU economic growth would be missed. Some of the European Parliament’s Members are trying to seriously distort the significance of the Services Directive and to implement a protectionist policy in relation to service providers from the new Member States, without taking into account the economic losses which that would cause to the European Union as a whole. The vote by the European Parliament will demonstrate whether the majority of Members see the future of the EU economy as a dynamic and open EU internal market or as a protectionist jungle of 25 Member States.
Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, we have had a lengthy and lively discussion. You certainly do not need caffeine to keep you alert during such a stimulating debate. I would like to thank all participants for their contributions representing various perspectives.
We have heard all the arguments for and against this proposal. What is clear to me is that despite the divergences there is a strong body of opinion in support of a services directive, a common wish to arrive at a broad understanding of how we should go forward. I welcome that. It demonstrates the vital role that the European Parliament can play in reconciling the many different opinions expressed in this House.
On the basis of today’s debate, I feel confident that Parliament can lead the way forward in building the consensus that this proposal needs if it is to be adopted. We owe a debt of gratitude to the rapporteur, the shadow rapporteurs and group leaders for their constructive approach.
I said that the Commission will take full account of those amendments that find a broad consensus here. I believe we are close to that consensus, particularly with regard to the scope of the proposal and the freedom to provide services as set out in Article 16.
I was heartened to hear so many speakers say that they wanted a services directive with real added value. That is why we should keep any further sectoral exemptions from the scope to a minimum, and we need to pay particular attention to the wording of Article 16. There can be no going back on Treaty provisions or court jurisdiction.
In reply to Mr Watson’s criticism of our efforts to help build bridges on Article 16, it is a pity he did not check the source of the draft text that he found fault with. It did not come from my office, but then I am used to being accused of many things – good and bad – for which I have no responsibility.
Turning to the substance of today’s debate and the posting of workers, I have much sympathy for those who are concerned about what they see as unnecessary administrative burdens placed on workers who are posted to another Member State. There is Community law and court jurisprudence which must be respected. If you vote by a large majority to delete Articles 24 and 25, then the Commission will come forward quickly with guidance on that key initiative.
It is important that the message that comes with this debate and the vote on Thursday is one of Europe moving forward in proposing a framework for a better services directive which will provide the incentives and confidence necessary for businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers to take full advantage of our internal market by investing in new opportunities and developing and buying new services which will create more jobs and growth.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Thursday at 10 a.m.
Written statements (Rule 142)
Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) The services directive, which will be put to the vote on Thursday in Strasbourg, provides a chance to demonstrate to the 450 million European citizens that Europe and especially Parliament are listening to the people’s demands and concerns and are trying to reconcile them with a strategy of growth and development that only harmonisation and a real opening-up of economic activities can provide.
The text that I hope will come out of this plenary will be a watered-down document, with grey areas that will need clarification. However, in a diversified context like Europe, with new countries seeking opportunities and old countries trying to protect themselves, with small and large enterprises and 25 different legal systems, compromise is the only way to proceed. We must therefore welcome the commitment shown by all the political groups and players concerned to reach an agreement. It is an important opportunity for Europe to recover its confidence and to relaunch its bid for a kind of economic growth that will not damage our social model; that bid has unfortunately lost credibility in recent months. We need growth and we need to revitalise our economy, and the services directive is an important initial measure, provided that the welfare and rights of our workers are not called into question.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL). – (PT) The directive on establishing an internal market in services was proposed by the Commission when its President was the social democrat Romano Prodi, and has now been taken on by the current Commission under Mr Barroso’s leadership.
This proposal plays a central role in the onslaught of capitalism in the EU. It is a proposal that panders to the interests of the large multinationals by paving the way for them to exploit the workers and dominate further economic sectors.
What is being proposed is the total liberalisation of services, including public services, which will have detrimental consequences for the workers and for the sovereignty of individual Member States. If it is adopted, this proposal would act as a lever, a kind of ‘Trojan Horse’ to undermine salaries, collective work contracts and workers’ rights. It will also act against the Member States’ ability to provide effective protection for public services, and, in general, to control how those services are provided.
It is impossible to ‘reform’ this proposal, as the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament are seeking to do, in an attempt to retain the core negative elements of the directive and, at the same time, to save face.
As the workers have been demanding and as we have been calling for from the outset, this directive must be rejected.
Filip Andrzej Kaczmarek (PPE-DE). – (PL) The existence of barriers in the European market in services leads to higher prices, restricted economic growth and fewer new jobs. Are lower growth, fewer jobs and higher prices really what Europeans want? I do not think so.
Above all else, Europeans want more jobs. Why should politicians obstruct this? Certain self-styled defenders of working people want to emasculate the directive, and to render it toothless. It could be argued that these individuals are in favour of liberalising the services market or even against doing so. I certainly agree that the directive impacts on sensitive issues. We cannot bury our heads in the sand, however. I wonder if the directive's opponents have given careful consideration to competitiveness and the future of service providers, and whether they really do want a single market. There has been a lot of talk about equality, but it seems to be an Orwellian equality, just for those that are 'more equal'. There has also been talk of protecting social achievements, but this seems to mean protecting them in the rich countries only, not in the whole of Europe.
Small and medium-sized enterprises create the most jobs. Services make the greatest contribution to Europe's GDP. Let us give entrepreneurs a chance. Let us give the 20 million unemployed Europeans a chance. Let us give the entrepreneurial spirit a chance. We have an opportunity to do good. We must not waste it. That is why we must vote against the amendments that would water down the directive, hamper its implementation and threaten the achievement of the desired results. Let us choose real freedom. We cannot allow national egoism and protectionism to harm Europe.
Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM). – (EL) The report by Mrs Gebhardt on the Bolkestein directive has come to plenary today for debate and vote.
In essence, this is a reworking of the shadowy Bildeberg Club to impose the steamroller of globalisation and the rules of the new order.
As an elected member of the European Parliament (and not elected by some party power controlled by the persons of the new order), I am absolutely opposed to the philosophies reworked in the directive in question, which executes in cold blood decades of workers' rights.
As chairman of the Popular Orthodox Rally in Greece, I shall encourage all the groups attacked by the directive to engage in full resistance.
I did not take part in the debate, simply because the presence of all those who are ideologically opposed legalises the extreme positions of the person who inspired the directive.
I voted against the directive and I wish this statement to be entered in the Minutes.
David Martin (PSE). – Seventy per cent of Europe’s GDP is now based on services. The biggest gap in completing the Single European Market is in the Services sector. If we could create a dynamic single market for services, around 600 000 new jobs could be created in the EU.
Removing the administrative and technical barriers to companies operating outside their own country is therefore a desirable and important objective and opens up the sector to fair competition. However, driving down workers’ rights, wages and health and safety measures has no part in creating a dynamic service sector and that is why I will be voting for amendments that exclude labour law and free collective bargaining from the scope of the directive.
I also believe that certain services such as health, social services and aspects of education are so sensitive that they should not be covered by this particular measure.
Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Mr McCreevy, I was once lost in the rural roads of your home county. Asking directions of a gentleman I passed, I was told ‘well, I wouldn’t start from over here’.
I pass this piece of advice to you, Commissioner: if you want to smoothly facilitate free and easy movement of services throughout our 25 countries, I wouldn’t start from here.
‘Here’ being a vague and incomprehensible mess that will be defined in our courts. ‘Here’ being a recipe for chaos, creating a situation where we will potentially become 25 different systems of regulation and business moving to the country with the most regulatory advantages, creating a crisis in which the only solution will be complete federal harmonisation, and who wants that?