Services Directive, the last lap

14 November 2006

Services Directive, the last lap

Tomorrow the European Parliament will debate former Commissioner Frits Bolkestein's Directive on Services for the last time, before voting on it later in the day. The proposal will almost certainly be approved. SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard will make a final attempt to remove its worst features, hoping to win the support of Labour (PvdA) colleagues:. "We are not ready to throw in the towel," she said. "It's not over until the final bell."

Mass demonstrations, strikes and even the rejection of the European Constitution: the Services Directive last year provoked considerable opposition, resulting in fierce debate and important changes to the proposal. But the tide seemed to turn as many social democrats gave up their resistance to further enforced liberalisation. “The so-called compromise on the Services Directive, the text which is now coming to the vote, has to a large extent been rendered redundant," Ms Liotard said. "By means of other European Regulations and Directives, many of the important achievements of last year's struggle and the negotiations which accompanied it have been annulled by the Commission.” Despite this it seems that only the SP and Greens are at this stage prepared to propose amendments..

Kartika Liotard “It is only a done deal if everyone who is still in a position to do something about this gives up the ghost," Liotard insisted. "We will be presenting amendments to get rid of past liberalisation. Last time some of the PvdA voted with us, and I hope that even more social democrats will do so now. If this doesn't happen, then we will vote against the Directive as a whole.”

The Commission has, since last year's debates, used a number of measures, including the Posted Workers Directive (which governs conditions for people temporarily employed outside their own countries) to undermine many of the measures designed to protect such workers – measures introduced under pressure from demonstrations and during the compromise negotiations. In addition, safeguards for essential public services are far less certain than was thought to be the case at the conclusion of negotiations. On these matters a great deal of work remains to be done. As Kartika Liotard sees it, "Struggle and debate are certainly effective, but they will need to be kept up."

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