21st Oct 2016

McCreevy urges MEPs to act fast on services bill

  • The European services sector needs a shot in the arm, but MEPs can't agree if the bill should cover medical services or not (Photo:

The European Parliament must reach agreement on the services directive quickly or risk aggravating Europe's economic problems, internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy told MEPs on Monday (13 June).

His remarks came after members finished submitting their amendments to the bill last week, with 936 separate suggestions covering almost all 20 official languages of the EU currently on the table.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The text is set to take around a month to translate and would require over four hours of voting time in plenary if all the changes stay in the final draft of the report.

"Without preparedness to compromise, it is unlikely that we will have a services directive any time soon", Mr McCreevy said, adding that an impasse would be "irresponsible" in the current economic climate of high unemployment and low growth.

He noted that Europe is facing a "crisis of confidence" that expressed itself in the French and Dutch no votes but stems from the economic malaise.

"We're not going to get the European economy into a higher gear if we do not tackle the obstacles in the services sector", he indicated, urging MEPs to "bite the bullet" on difficult issues, such as fears that the directive could damage Europe's so-called social model.

The directive aims to remove legal obstacles for builders, travel agents and other service providers from one member state to do business in other EU countries.

But the bill has attracted controversy, with some critics claiming that safety standards would erode in the name of competitiveness and others fearful that cheap eastern European workers will drive western Europeans out of their jobs.

The Polish plumber became a figurehead of French opposition to the services directive and perceived Ango-Saxon economic liberalism during the recent French referendum on the EU Constitution.

EPP-ED unveils new compromise deal

The centre-right faction's shadow rapporteur on the services directive, Malcolm Harbour, noted that 20 EPP-ED members have put forward a new package of 167 amendments that might form the basis of a compromise.

"There will be socialists who will accept this as well as a reasonable core among the EPP-ED and the liberals", he told EUobserver.

Mr Harbour's package hinges on an "internal market principle" that would see service providers' orginating countries share the burden of legislative control with destination states in a middle way between socialist "protectionism" and the European Commission's "radicalist" plans to let orginating countries call the shots.

The 167 amendments would also allow liberalisation of private sector health services.

The socialist rapporteur on the services bill, Germany's Evelyn Gebhardt, drew her line in the sand during Monday's meeting however.

She said that a plurality of legal regimes covering services would confuse consumers and risks damaging established standards on social protection, health and environmental standards and the minimum wage.

"I am not going to enter into any compromise that doesn't state clearly that the European social model is of the utmost importance", she noted, adding that health, consumer and environmental protection are "fundamental preconditions" of any services deal.

Ms Gebhardt pointed out that the EPP-ED is unlikely to be the driving force behind a parliamentary consensus, with 416 of the 936 amendments to the commission's proposals coming from centre-right MEPs compared to 255 from socialist members.

She also noted that many socialist MEPs feel she herself has made too many concessions to the Brussels executive's free market model already.

Meanwhile, a source within the liberal group said that Mr Harbour's new package sounds like an ALDE idea, which was originally put forward by liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis in April.

The parliament is set to vote on the first reading of the directive in September or October, paving the way for final adoption of the bill one or two years down the line if all goes well.


Europe ready to tackle Greek debt relief

The Greek government has built and broadened alliances in EU institutions and member-states that acknowledge the need to restructure the debt and deliver another economic model for the eurozone.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  2. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  3. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  4. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  5. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  6. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  7. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting
  8. Tusk: 'Concrete' migration proposals in December summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity

Latest News

  1. Wallonia still refuses to buy the Ceta "cat in a bag"
  2. Women shake Poland's pillars of power
  3. Malta, Latvia, and Hungary top EU obesity charts
  4. British PM asserts her role in EU 'nest of doves'
  5. Italy shields Russia from EU sanctions threat
  6. EU and Wallonia still stuck on Canada accord
  7. Dieselgate isn't my fault, says German transport minister
  8. Scotland plans independence vote before Brexit