The Parliament has adopted, with the votes of its three largest groups, the much-disputed Services Directive, paving the way for the its entry into force in early 2010. It voted against all amendments to a summer 2006 Council compromise.
EU ministers have approved the draft legislation to open up the internal market for services. The new law, which will now return to Parliament for second reading, is one of the key elements of the EU's growth and jobs strategy.
Ahead of the crucial vote on 16 February 2006, Conservative MEPs from the new member states and socialists from France and other countries, say they will not vote for the compromise amendments on the Services Directive agreed between senior MEPs of both groups.
The governments of the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK have sent a letter to Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, urging him not to cave in to the Parliament on the services directive.
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.
Thousands of dock workers have gathered in Strasbourg at the weekend to march on 16 January against a draft EU directive to liberalise port services. MEPs are divided over whether to reject or modify the proposal.
Trade unions from the EU's old as well as the new member states are opposed to the version of the services directive adopted in the Parliament's Internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) committee on 22 November 2006.
The Parliament's Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection has adopted the report on the Directive on Services in the Internal Market, maintaining the disputed country-of-origin principle.
The former commissioner whose name is now associated in France with ultra-liberalism was in Paris to quell fears that the draft services directive will lead to social dumping and fuel opposition to the EU Constitution.
In an interview (in French) with EURACTIV, the French Liberal association Liberté Chérie condemns the "deceit campaign" run by French politicians and media across the board on the Bolkestein directive.
EU leaders have agreed to introduce far reaching changes to the Bolkestein directive to preserve the European social model. But the changes will be introduced within the normal course of the legislative process, at a later stage.
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