As Euro MPs prepare to vote on the controversial services directive, injecting competition into the European Union's services market, on Thursday, the Vice President of the Green Group in the European Parliament, Jean Lambert MEP, has warned that unless fundamental changes are made, the Services Directive will destroy universal public services already established across Europe.
Jean Lambert, UK Green / EFA coordinator on the employment and social affairs committee, today urged the European Parliament to support the amendments put forward by the Greens. Jean said; "The Commission's proposal for the Services Directive is currently so flawed that it creates more questions than it answers.
"It is vital that we reduce the scope of the directive to only include commercial services and reduce the threat to public services. The directive must be clear about what it does and doesn't cover. Health is not a commercial service to be traded across borders like kitchen sinks and we must be assured that this, along with other public services, are explicitly excluded. People have fought hard to establish universal public services in Europe and we don't want to see them chipped away - especially by a directive that we have been told has no such intention."
Although the Greens are not wholly opposed to a European regulation for services there is grave concern that removing national regulations, without prior harmonisation, is inappropriate and with many aspects of the Directive in tension with existing legislation, will simply lead to greater uncertainty and an incoherent legislation.
Jean Lambert continued; "The Directive offers the Country of Origin Principle as a solution to service barriers but this principle will confuse and endanger consumers. We ought to have confidence in the standards of each EU country but in reality we don't yet. Without its removal, consumers face the distinct possibility of having to learn the rules and regulations of 25 member states."
The Green's are keen to protect those services of general and economic interest, including education, health and water and waste management from liberalisation through a good Services Directive that provides equal access, conditions and protection for all service providers and users. As yet though, the proposed directive is not acceptable.
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Notes to editors:
Jean Lambert: In October 2005 Jean was named MEP 2005 for Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections. She was re-elected in 2004. She is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament.
The Services Directive: One of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the European Parliament in recent years. The debate will take place in Strasbourg on Tuesday 14th February 2006 and a large demonstration is expected to take place outside the Parliament, in particular from trade unions opposed to the Directive. The vote will take place on Thursday 16th February 2006.
Country of Origin Principle: According to this principle, a service provider who crosses the border to deliver services in another Member State would be subject only to the legal provisions of its Member State of origin. Without its removal from the Directive the consumer will have to know the rules and regulations from 25 Member States ranging from quality assurance and liability to advertising.
The Green Groups position reflects that of the Royal College of Nursing, London who are working with the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), the European Federation of Public Sector Unions (EPSU) and the European Federation of Nurses Association (EFN) to lobby against parts of the proposed legislation.