Zypries: European Commission’s Services Package goes too far

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On 27 April 2017, Federal Minister Brigitte Zypries met with representatives of business associations and trade unions at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to discuss the European Commission’s new Services Package. The package which was presented by the Commission in January 2017 is to make it easier for companies and professionals to provide services across the EU.

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Brigitte Zypries said: “I welcome the fact that the European Commission is undertaking further steps to integrate the European Single Market. However, the new proposals go much too far and would have wide-reaching consequences. Germany has put structures in place that have proved to be successful: the private sector's ability to exercise self-governance, our dual vocational training system, the requirement for owners of skilled crafts businesses to have a master craftsman's certificate, the system of social partnership. We will not have these structures destroyed, particularly, as these have proved to be effective in times of crisis. We are working with the business associations and the trade unions to keep a close eye on what the Commission is doing, because we do not want either the master craftsman certificate or our tried and tested social standards to be undermined.”

The Commission’s Services Package provides for the introduction of a services e-card which is to simplify administrative procedures for cross-border service providers. However, the proposal that has been presented for this is unnecessarily complex and bureaucratic. For example, under the present proposal, the Member States are required to set up a centralised coordinating authority that will issue the services e-card. This is problematic as Germany’s administrative system is organised in a decentralised manner. There is also a risk that other national regulations – such as the right to join a self-governing body or the right of individual companies to ask freelancers to meet particular requirements – could also be undermined. The impact that the Services Package will have on the secondment of workers, social security law and tax law is also unclear.

Another element of the Services Package is the proportionality assessment. This means that any time a Member State adopts or amends its national rules on professional regulations, these will be verified by the Commission based on a catalogue of pre-defined criteria. However, there is a serious risk that, as a result of this, Member States could find it more difficult, for example, to maintain high standards for healthcare services and consumer protection.

The third part of the Commission’s package deals with the introduction of a new notification procedure which will give the Commission greater power over the adoption or modification of national rules on services. National laws will need to be reviewed and approved by the Commission before they can enter into force. Up until now, only the European Court of Justice has the power to reject national legislation. So the Commission’s proposal also raises questions with regard to the division of powers and the authority that our democratically elected national legislators have.

Skilled crafts professionals, freelancers but also the construction and services sector as a whole would be directly affected by the new measures.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is therefore working closely with other European Member States to actively encourage the Commission to establish a single market for services that is balanced, open, fair and socially just and takes account of German interests.