On 15 November 2006, the European Parliament in its second reading, adopted the Services Directive, voting against all the proposed amendments to the Council’s compromise position. For the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN), this is only a partial victory.
“Whilst the compromise text is a vast improvement on the original Bolkestein proposal, and firmly demonstrates Parliament’s growing positive influence in the EU decision-making process, we are disappointed that in the end Parliament appeared to back away from a proper debate, particularly on the amendments which proposed a more effective exclusion of all social services of general interest from the Directive” said Fintan Farrell, Director of EAPN.
EAPN has been part of an active campaign, alongside other social NGO’s in the Social Platform, to press for the widest possible definition of social services to be excluded from the Directive.
“For our members, small NGO’s providing vital services to people experiencing poverty and social exclusion, this compromise text is still going to lead to a lot of legal uncertainty…They won’t be clear whether their services fall under the Directive or not”.
EAPN is also surprised that no consideration seems to have been made of the wording used in the Commission’s own definition in the Communication on Social Services of General Interest, issued earlier this year. It will be vital, however, to use this document at a national level to help in the interpretation of the Service Directive.
“We are talking here about serious threats to the future of vital local services, delivered often by non-profit making organizations, but also by innovative social economy organization who could still fall foul of this Directive”, added Ludo Horemans, the new President of EAPN,. “We need a clear EU legal framework which recognizes the special nature and role of social services and clarifies once and for all where these organizations stand in relationship to EU law like competition rules, state aid and public procurement”.
EAPN is concerned that the current consultation over the Communication is only likely to lead to a long drawn-out process, leaving the “social concerns” behind whilst the actions to promote the market economy are given the green light.
Fintan Farrell highlighted “Unless the Commission takes swift action, the EU must take responsibility for opening the door to a “money first” mentality which could lead to an irreversible attack on vital services which defend fundamental rights and are at the core of the European Social Model. How can the EU hope to deliver its commitment to eradicate poverty, if it does not actively support the very organizations that are so essential to its delivery?”
For further information, please contact Audrey Gueudet (Information officer) or Fintan Farrell (Director), tel. +32 2 230 44 55 – fax. +32 2 230 97 33 – E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – Website: http://www.eapn.org/