On 10 January - more than ten years after the entry into force of the so called Bolkestein Directive54 - the Commission has presented an ambitious package of measures in the framework of the Single Market Strategy, which aims to relaunch integration in the single market in the services sector. Among the other aspects in the package55, the European Commission has proposed a new European Services e-card which would allow companies to work in other EU countries by simplifying the administrative formalities usually required. This should reduce the cost of the provision of cross border services. The EU services sector represents two thirds of the EU economy and generates most of the jobs (90%)56. Regulated professional services are a fundamental part of the services sector and their contribution is felt throughout all sectors of the economy given that around 22% of the European labour force work in one of these services.
Giving a boost to the service sector is at the heart of the Single Market Strategy and in the Commission’s opinion this is the time to focus on the services sector and remove unjustified barriers which still obstacle the growth and exchange of services in the EU.
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth Investment and Competitiveness, stated that “barriers to trade in services are also barriers to competitiveness. Making better use of the Single Market for Services will help European businesses create jobs and grow across borders, offering a wider choice of services at better prices, while maintaining high standards for consumers and workers.” 57
In addition, important studies show that Member States with fewer obstacles to crossborder competition perform on average better that Member States with more restrictions.
For all the above mentioned reasons, a boost to the services sector will benefit consumers, jobseekers and businesses and will generate economic growth across Europe.
The package of measures presented by the Commission doesn’t aim to reopen the 2006 Services Directive but to facilitate the application of some of its provisions. In the meantime, the Commission continues to monitor the correct application of the Directive by Member States.
Responding to the needs of simplification, speed and growth in the services sector, the Commission has proposed the European services e-card. It is a new, simple and fully electronic procedure for self-employed people and companies who provide construction or business services that already fall under the scope of the Services Directive59, to complete easier the administrative formalities required to provide services in another EU country.
It will ensure that the service providers comply with all legal requirements in both the home and host country.
While today the service provider has to (i) follow unfamiliar procedures – most often in a foreign language – which are usually long, complicated and not electronic, (ii) submit many documents and re-submit for each new application and (iii) deal with different EU authorities abroad, whereas with e-card the service provider (i) follows a procedure on its own language with its own administration through a user-friendly, electronic procedure with clear timelines (ii) submits documents online and can reuse them for future applications and (iii) has to deal with one contact point in home country which liaises with host country.
The e-card aims to facilitate the administrative procedure in order to foster the growth and concurrence of services across Europe. The e-card doesn’t impact on workers’ rights and employer obligations, consumer protection, or health, safety and environmental standards. Moreover, the host Member State retains the power to decide whether the applicant is allowed to offer services on its territory and can cancel revoke or suspend the e-card at any time. Ten years ago, this aspect was one of the main area of concern from the wealthier Member States’ view. They were worried to be overpowered by the most competitive services companies from East Europe. The draft legislative proposals on the services e-card – with others – procedures will be sent to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. On average, it takes about one year for a proposed measure to be adopted into law.