Council finds backing on services compromise

The Parliament’s Internal Market Committee voted, without any amendments, for the Council’s Common Position on the Services Directive, making an agreement in second reading more likely.

The Committee met in Strasbourg for a special session dedicated entirely to the Services Directive on the evening of 23 October 2006. The vote was preceded by an informal trilogue meeting and a debate session, in which the rapporteur, Evelyne Gebhardt (PSE, Germany) explained her motives for tabling 14 amendments which, if adopted, would have meant that the directive needs to go into third reading (see EURACTIV, 14 September 2006). 

In the same committee meeting, Commissioner McCreevy announced clarification concerning the main issues that Gebhardt thought needed to be amended, such as the neutrality of the directive with reference to labour law, consequences for social services, the possible future harmonisation of services law in the member states and the impact of the directive on penal law. 

In the vote that followed, all 43 amendments, including those tabled by Gebhardt, were voted down; mostly so were the votes of the ALDE (Liberal) and EPP-ED (Conservative) groups. The EPP-ED itself had not laid down any amendments, in order not to endanger a compromise with the Council. In spite of her defeat in the vote, Gebhardt voted in favour of the report ‘as amended’. Some Socialist MEPs followed suit, which meant a comfortable majority in favour of the report of 26 over four votes, with six abstentions. 

Luc Hendrickx, director for enterprise policy and external relations with UEAPME, the European SME employers’ organisation, expressed his hope that the Parliament’s plenary will follow the vote of the Internal Market Committee when it votes on the directive mid-November. Hendrickx said: “Further amendments at this stage would have jeopardised the delicate compromise behind the text. Although not a perfect solution, the proposed directive strikes a good balance by opening up the services sector while ensuring workable procedures for SMEs, high quality of services and consumer protection at the same time.”

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