The European Services Directive, which EU member states must transpose into law by the end of this year, is a flawed agreement, Patrick de Bucquois, incoming president of CEDAG, a European umbrella group for non-profit organisations, told EURACTIV in an interview.
The directive lacks “a clear recognition of what it means to be a non-profit service provider” in the internal market, and has led to a situation where today there is “more confusion than agreement,” de Bucquois told EURACTIV in an interview.
De Bucquois, who will this week be elected president of the Council of Associations of General Interest (CEDAG), said the ideal solution would be a European statute for non-profits, something his organisation has lobbied for intensely in the past.
But he concedes that there is not enough political will behind this “difficult dossier” for it to become reality anytime soon.
No leadership from Commission
In particular, CEDAG is concerned about the ongoing debate on a framework directive for services of general interest. The providers of such services, ranging from architects to supermarkets, are currently not covered by existing EU rules, something that remains a problem, said de Bucquois.
While there is a “big push” from a number of countries to maintain legislative momentum toward such a directive, he acknowledges that the Commission is in “waiting mode, saying that it doesn’t have a clear mandate from member states” and is thus reluctant to take any initiatives.
As a result of this stalemate, problems persist across the EU, notably the fact that “member states at all levels, including local authorities at times, do not have very good knowledge of European rules, which in turn leads to uneven application of these rules”.
The incoming CEDAG president bemoaned this state of affairs, calling on the Commission to “show some initiative and leadership”.
Should the Lisbon Treaty come into force, it could lead to further complications, he noted, given that it will oblige member states to adopt a regulation on services of general interest, a much more binding and inflexible legislative tool than a directive.
As a result, concludes de Bucquois, “we have three possible scenarios: the first is that nothing will happen; the second is that the Commission will adopt something so basic and counterproductive that it might actually do more harm than good; and the third possibility – which still exists, though I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on it – is to have a good instrument which is well elaborated”.