MEPs want healthcare back in ‘Bolkestein Directive’

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In a surprise vote, the Parliament’s Internal Market Committee is calling on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for reintroducing health services into the Services Directive. 

The European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee adopted, on 8 May 2007, an own-initiative report exploring the consequences of the exclusion of health services from the scope of the Services Directive.  

Amendment 172, introduced by Dutch liberal MEP Toine Manders: “Invites the Commission to submit, to Parliament, a proposal to reintroduce health services into Directive 2006/123/EC, and a proposal to codify European Court of Justice rulings on European patients’ rights.” 

The amendment was adopted by a narrow right-wing majority (EPP, ALDE) with 22 votes in favour, 18 against (PSE, Greens, GUE/NGL) and two abstentions.

EPP-ED spokesperson, MEP Charlotte Cederschiöld said that the report "shows the way to move to achieve free movement for patients, making it easy to find the best care all over the EU and not only domestically". 

"The role of the IMCO Committee has been very important in protecting patients' rights against those finance ministers wanting to limit patients' rights to better health. The opposition has been firm but in the end, today's decision will be the first step towards an internal market also for health care," she added. 

MEP Marianne Thyssen, vice-chairwoman of the EPP-ED Group, voted against the report. "I refuse to support a text that includes such an unwise paragraph and which goes manifestly against a fundamental choice the European Parliament made earlier on." 

The Socialist Group leader Martin Schulz said: "Mr Daul [Joseph Daul, leader of the EPP-ED Group] confirmed that his Group does not support the vote by its members. It remains loyal to the agreement with the Socialist Group that health services should remain outside the scope of the services directive." 

The rapporteur, French MEP Bernadette Vergnaud (PES), voted against her report. 

The Green MEPs Heide Rühle and Pierre Jonckheer condemned the vote, referring to it as an "attempt by the EPP and ALDE deputies to parachute health services back into the Services Directive". 

"The Parliament clearly ruled out the inclusion of health services, due to fears that provision of this crucial public service could be undermined. Nothing has changed in the interim and we hope that the plenary will reject any proposal to treat public health as a purely commercial service when it votes on this report," they said. 

The GUE/NGL shadow rapporteur, MEP Soren Bo Sondergaard described the report as "a total catastrophe". "The exclusion of health services from the Services Directive, won so hard by a huge mobilisation of trade unions and social movements against the original 'Bolkestein' draft, is put at risk again," he said.

Public and private healthcare and social services were excluded from the Bolkestein Directive (directive on services in the internal market), adopted in December 2006.

  • The report will be voted at the Parliaments Plenary Session on 24 May 2007.
  • If adopted, it is up to the Commission to take action as Parliament's own-initiative reports are not binding.

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