European Parliament strips Services Directive to the bone

15 March 2005

European Parliament strips Services Directive to the bone

Today, the Environment and Public Health Committee of the European Parliament held a vote on a large number of proposed amendments to the Directive on Services in the Internal Market, the Bolkestein Directive. By the time the Committee had done its work, there was almost nothing left to amend. A majority of members turned out to be in favour of throwing out the so-called Country of Origin – the heart of the Directive – principle in its entirety. In addition, a proposal completely to exclude health care from the scope of the Directive won a clear majority. Kartika Liotard, Member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP), and ‘draftswoman’ in charge of coordinating the Environment Committee’s report said, “This is a big victory. I was quite hopeful that the vote would go well, but this exceeded all our expectations.”

Kartika LiotardKartika Liotard, who is extremely critical of the Services Directive, and who draws attention in her report to the negative consequences which the proposed measure would have, saw her report approved by a large majority (45-5). “The vote stripped the Directive of so much of its substance that Commissioner McCreevy would perhaps be better withdrawing the proposal completely. Now that the entire health care sector has been excluded and the Country of Origin principle has turned out to be unacceptable, there’s virtually nothing left of it,” Ms Liotard said. In addition, one of Liotard’s successful amendments states that the Directive cannot be approved until a framework directive on ‘services of general interest’ is in place, containing guarantees regarding essential public services, and that this should be done before the Commission proposes any further liberalisations. Such a measure is already in preparation, but under pressure from the Services Directive debate over the proposal has been put on a back burner.

The Environment and Public Health Committee is the first of four of the European Parliament’s Committees which will give their opinions on the Services Directive. Ms Liotard’s report, including approved amendments, is now the Committee’s formal Opinion. The European Parliament as a whole will vote on the measure, and on proposed amendments from the Committees, in a plenary session on 8th June.

“We have won a major battle,” added Ms Liotard, “but 8th June is still a long way off. Obviously it’s great that our resistance to the proposal has paid off. We have to keep it up by supporting Saturday’s demonstration against the Services Directive.”

On Saturday 19th March, Brussels hosts what promises to be an enormous international protest rally against ‘Bolkestein’. An estimated total of 50,000 people from every member state of the EU is expected to take to the city’s streets. The SP, as a member of the “Platform Stop the Services Directive” has played an active role in mobilising for this demonstration.

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