The draft report for the second reading of the services directive did not go down as well with the Council and Conservative MEPs as the Parliament’s rapporteur, Evelyne Gebhardt, had hoped for.
Gebhardt opted for a low-profile report, constraining herself to a set of only 11 amendments, which she said aimed to create more legal clarity on issues such as the exclusion of labour law and social services, consumer protection and administrative cooperation. “Almost all of the amendments I will present are of a technical nature,” the Franco-German Social Democrat said in the committee.
The representative of the Finnish presidency did not agree, however. “Some of the amendments proposed,” she said, “touch the heart of the compromise [found between the institutions] and of the [Council’s] common position. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to accept them.” The Commission representative present said that “certain amendments presented by the rapporteur reduce the legal clarity” of the text.
They were backed by Conservative and Liberal MEPs. “Any wider changes can only be interpreted as an attack on the directive as such, because a failure of the second reading would mean the definitive end of the legislation process,” declared EPP-ED MEPs Malcolm Harbour (UK) and Andreas Schwab (Germany) in a joint press release.
While the Council in its common position excluded only “non-economic services of general interest“, Gebhardt proposed to exclude all services of general interest (SGI), arguing that “SGI are by their very nature non-economic”. In first reading, the Parliament voted to leave the choice to member states to define which services are SGI.
Conservative MEPS attacked this and other amendments by Gebhardt: “Amendments going to the core of the compromise such as the exclusion of social services and private international law as well as the screening process and the review clause foreseen will not be acceptable for the EPP-ED-Group,” declared Harbour and Schwab.
Gebhardt stressed that she was “not out to put the compromise at risk”. Still, she maintained, the Parliament should not take the attitude: “Because we have won a 90% victory, we will give in on the remaining 10%.” On this, Gebhardt was backed by the Greens/EFA and, more reservedly, the GUE/NGL group. To sum up, Gebhardt observed that “neither the rapporteur, nor the Council or the Commission will say today which amendments they deem acceptable and which ones not. That will be established behind closed doors. We are not negotiating in a public place.” Gebhardt said that she will come forward with eight or nine additional amendments to complement the ones already presented, all of them concerning the recitals only.