A European Professional Service Card to form centerpiece in revised approach to implementation of the Services Directive
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took the decision last Tuesday to postpone measures to boost the mobility of service providers across the EU. Instead the package will be debated on January 11th in Brussels. Jyrki Katainen, Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth and Investment, and his colleague Elżbieta Bieńkowska, in charge of the Internal Market, were expected to announce a series of initiatives last Tuesday to improve the functioning of the decade-old Services Directive. In a debate that is of great interest to Environment and Energy professionals across Europe, the goal of the review is to bring lower prices to consumers in a number of services, raise productivity in the European economy and increase job creation in Europe by better controlling how EU member states protect some business activities. The Services Directive, that became known as the Bolkestein Directive in the build up to the 1995 referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht in France, drew heavy criticism when it was first introduced in 2000. The European Commission is seeking to improve the functioning of the ten-year-old Services Directive, which has failed to deliver its full potential. One of the key initiatives being proposed here is the European service e-Card to improve the coordination between the country of origin of a service provider and the host member state. The e-card would bring a simpler and fully electronic procedure through which the worker will contact one single interlocutor in their home country and in their own language. The responsible authority in a member state would verify the data and transmit it to the host member state. Officials stressed that this instrument would not affect the member states’ existing powers to apply national regulations and to decide whether service providers from another member state can work in the country. The new instrument would not affect either employers’ obligations or workers’ rights. The second proposal of the package will ensure a preventive enforcement of the services directive to guarantee that all new and amended national regulations are justified, proportionate and do not discriminate against professional workers from another EU member state. Here the key objective is to avoid the European Commission from taking continuous infringement procedures against governments which put forward unjustified protections to shield some professions. Despite criticism from the private sector, the European Commission wants a review of the directive given that businesses and professionals continue to face too many difficulties in operating across borders. According to the Commission, Europe has 5,000 regulated professions, 19 of which include 50 million workers. The executive believes that, while these jobs had a special status in the past to protect the public interest and consumers interest, many of these regulations are today disproportionate and restrict labour mobility across Europe. ENEP has shown interest in the debate surrounding the mutual recognition of professional qualifications which has until now been limited to five regulated professions. This new debate comes at an interesting time when environment and energy professionals may seek work abroad and due recognition for their competencies and skills that have been accredited in a neighbouring state. As a result ENEP will meet with cabinet members of Karmenu Vella, the environment commissioner on 4th January to raise the profile of the environmental and energy professionals in the context of this debate.