As the vote on the services directive in the Parliament’s plenary approaches, MEPs are facing one last lobbying effort. While medical practitioners are opposed to the draft law, patients’ associations would like to have health services included.
In the vote on 16 February 2006, the Commission’s draft is likely to undergo significant changes. According to a report by Le Monde, a large majority of MEPs will vote for health services to be excluded from the scope of the directive.
An international patient’s association says that the exclusion of health services will be against the interests of people seeking treatment in an EU member state other than their own. Martine Mérigeau of the European Consumer Centre says that “every country defends its little village green, which is to the detriment of patients”, adding that “the Bolkestein directive would pave the way for health in Europe the way that we want it”.
Doctors quoted by the French newspaper are in principle favourable to the free circulation of medical services, but contrary to patients do not think that they should be included in the draft law referred to as the ‘Bolkestein directive’. They argue that the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications, last updated in 2005, is sufficient for their needs, says Lisette Tiddens-Engwirda of the Standing Committee of European Doctors. Under this directive, medical practitioners are already free to exercise their profession in another member state once they have proved that they are sufficiently qualified.
Under the services directive, doctors would have to use ‘one-stop shops’ also used by other professions for clearing professional qualifications, tax, social security and insurance issues. An unnamed Commission official quoted by Le Monde says that the medical professions’ resistance to the services directive “is pure snobbery”, adding that “they don’t want to be subject to the same text as plumbers”.