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Greens ask for Alternative Approach to the Liberalization of Services
It is not without reason that this proposal is critized and disputed all throughout Europe. While in general we are in favour of more freedom of service provision, social, environmental and quality standards must not be on stake.

The Directive may lead to social and environmental dumping

The Directive establishes the country of origin principle as a general rule for the free movement of services. According to this idea, service providers would not be subject to the laws and regulations of the country where the activity is taking place but rather to those of the country where they have their siège social. When former Internal Market Commissioner Bolkestein drafted his Services Directive he may have only had the EU15 in mind. In a Union of 25 though, existing economic and social disparities are likely to create a race to the bottom in standards. Even though there is a series of derogations to the CoO, without prior harmonisation, service providers will tend to establish themselves in Member States with the lowest standards. This type of legislation the European Union would renounce harmonisation as a central characteristic of its internal market. Especially SMEs from those countries providing for high standards may be subject to even double discrimination, as they might neither be competitive on their home markets, nor have any chance on foreign markets. The Commission's proposal would probably favour the development of large transnational consortiums of service providers and jeopardise small local providers. The CoO will also lead to more bureaucracy as national administrations and judiciary systems will have to be aware of 25 different national systems in 20 different languages.

We believe, that the Directive's scope is much too wide as it includes services of general (economic) interest

Many services of general (economic) interest such as healthcare, culture, audiovisual services, social services or education services would be covered by the Directive as long as they involve at least partial economic remuneration. At the same time, in spite of a strong demand from the European Parliament, there is no parallel proposal for a Directive on services of general interest. We fear, that these services (including healthcare) falling under the Directive would jeopardise Member States' ability to organise adequate service provision.

There are better ways to achieve the Commission's relevant objectives

We propose an alternative approach concerning a limited number of commercial services. This alternative approach should be coherent with the objective of Community harmonisation and based on the following principles:
  1. a limited scope with a positive list of sectors which should be covered, i.e. economic activities of self-employed persons (article 47 EC) which do not involve any mission of general interest.

  2. concerning the issue of free movement of services: applying the host country principle instead of the country of origin principle as long as there is no full and upwards harmonisation regarding the access to and the exercise of a service activity, in particular in terms of behaviour of the provider, quality or content of the service, advertising, contracts and the provider's liability.

  3. concerning the issue of freedom of establishment: setting up an open coordination method, instead of a legislative approach, in order to compare Member States' requirements and authorisation schemes

  4. creating one-stop-shops and other administrative instruments in order to facilitate the access of service providers to relevant information and improve administrative cooperation between Member States.