The European institutions are to reach a compromise on the sensitive issue of services.
According to the text, the Directive will not apply to “healthcare, whether or not it is provided via healthcare facilities, and regardless of the ways in which it is organised and financed at national level or whether it is public or private”.
The text takes on board the remarks made in the past months by the EU health community: in particular, more than 40 public health organisations subscribed the European Health Policy Forum recommendations on health services and the internal market. The document called for the exclusion of health services from the scope of the Services Directive, in view of examining these services within the framework of the ongoing debate on Services of General Interest.
MEPs also watered down the controversial "country of origin principle", by replacing it with a "freedom to provide services clause", and expanded the list of reasons allowing Member States to restrict the freedom of a service provider from another Member State to provide services on their territory.
On the 4 April 2006, the European Commission published a revised draft directive on services in the Internal Market. The new version takes into account most of the position of the European Parliament vote in February 2006.
In addition, the Commission has decided to come forward with two other initiatives: one on social services of General Interest and the other on health-care services.
The Country of origin is replaced by the freedom to provide services anywhere in the EU. Member States must respect service providers’ rights to provide a service in another EU jurisdiction. However, Member States can apply measures that are "nondiscriminatory, proportionate and necessary" to protect public policy, public security, public health and the protection of the environment.
National authorities are also required to establish a single contact points for service providers so as to simplify and reduce the costs of establishment procedures.
The European Parliament welcomed the ’McCreevy Directive’ as it highlights the growing importance of the European Parliament in the EU’s decision-making.
In order to support Member States, the European Commission has also published guidelines to lift practical difficulties to implement the directive.
On the 29 May, 2006, the Council of Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry and Research) reached an agreement on the proposal from the European Commission, although intense debates took place on the grounds of protectionism. Lithuania and Belgium were the only countries to abstain from the compromise package.
The following services are excluded from the scope of the Directive: temporary work agencies, healthcare, audiovisual services, gambling, social services related to social housing, childcare and support to families, security and taxation services.
Financial services, temporary work, telecommunications and energy are covered by separate EU legislation.
The Council has formally adopted the text and forwarded it to the European Parliament for second reading.
Reactions from the Social Platform