[lg policy] EU: Services reforms falling behind schedule

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 18 14:32:51 UTC 2009

Services reforms falling behind schedule

By Jim Brunsden
17.09.2009 / 05:19 CET

Commission to criticise slow progress of reform; Business groups
unsure about implementation.  The European Commission is expected next
week to criticise member states for slow progress in liberalising the
EU services market. All member states are required to implement the EU
legislation fully by 28 December.  The Swedish presidency has
organised a ministerial discussion on 24 September on the poor state
of implementation to date, against a backdrop of worrying reports that
liberalisation gaps in some countries threaten to distort the internal
market.  The Commission will present a report which is expected to
echo anxieties expressed by business associations. Employers'
federation BusinessEurope warned earlier this month that
“transposition is progressing at a different pace in the member
states” and that “the quality of transposition work varies widely from
country to country”.

It said that there were “wide divergences” in the progress that member
states had made in amending their business regulations so that they no
longer discriminate against foreign service providers, and in creating
the “points of single contact” that foreign businesses and
entrepreneurs will use to complete administrative formalities.  A more
detailed report published by the Association of European Chambers of
Commerce and Industry (Eurochambres) in July identified the same
problems. A total of 38% of EU chambers questioned said they were
“unsure or sceptical” that the legislation would be properly
implemented in their countries on time.  The Eurochambres report said
that some member states would not be “operationally ready” to
liberalise by the deadline, “thus making the directive, from the
business perspective, irrelevant as well as ineffective”.

It said: “This not only jeopardises the directive's aim, but might
also place these countries at an economic disadvantage vis-à-vis other
member states.” A specific problem identified by Eurochambres is that
in almost all member states, the planned points of single contact will
work only in the national language. This raises concerns that
businesses will be discouraged from taking advantage of

Lowering standards

The services directive was adopted by the European Parliament and the
Council of Ministers on 12 December 2006. It was the subject of fierce
disagreements among member states and MEPs, some of whom feared it
would lead to social dumping and lower the standards of healthcare and
social services. The Commission's original proposal, made in 2004, was
heavily amended during the legislative process. Liberalisation will
cover most parts of the EU services sector, with some exceptions
including healthcare, social services such as childcare and aid for
people in need, and financial services. The Swedish presidency
believes the directive could help speed up Europe's recovery from the
economic crisis. It wants ministers to explain at the meeting what
changes the directive will bring for foreign businesses on their
territory, and what changes they expect other member states to make.

Ministers are also expected to discuss the future of EU innovation
policy. They will hold a joint meeting with the Parliament and the
Commission on the evening of 24 September to discuss future
initiatives.  Some member states are understood to be unhappy with a
Commission policy paper on innovation policy, published earlier this
month, because they think it lacks substance.

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