MEPs adopt watered down services law
The European Parliament has in a first reading adopted the landmark services directive, after MEPs supported amendments in favour of more social protection in the bill.
Most of the amendments were prepared in the compromise text filed jointly ahead of the vote by the two biggest parliamentary groups, the centre-right EPP-ED and the socialist PSE.
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Under the approved version, the contentious "country of origin" principle is no longer included in the directive.
The scope of the services bill has also been slimmed down, by excluding social, health care, security and transport services, as well as temporary work agencies.
However, commercial service providers in the area of education or culture, as well as companies delivering water or gas will be governed by the new law.
The German socialist rapporteur on the bill Evelyne Gebhardt noted "We have turned this directive upside down," thanking her colleagues for "excellent results" after two hours of voting on more than 400 amendments.
Her report on the controversial Bolkestein directive, so called after its Dutch ex-commissioner author was then adopted by 391 votes, with 213 MEPs voting against and 34 abstaining.
But the centre-right also claimed victory, with UK conservative MEP indicating "Three quarters of the amendments that reshaped the proposal came from our side, in close cooperation with our [liberal] ALDE and [right-wing] UEN allies."
Today's vote comes after almost two years of discussions in the parliament, and it attracted anxious attention up until the last moment as several centre-right deputies from Scandinavia and the "new" EU countries opposed the deal between the EPP-ED and the PSE.
The European Commission welcomed the vote and said it will begin work on preparing a modified proposal based on the vote in the European Parliament.
"With the broad consensus reached on key aspects of this proposal the European Parliament has provided us with a solid basis for going forward," European internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy stated.
"This represents a real advance, a step that no one would have believed possible just 12 months ago. I believe that today's vote demonstrates that there is a willingness in Europe to pursue measures to deliver more jobs and growth," he added.
"I look now to the Council of Ministers to complete the work which has been done by Parliament."