Schroeder opposes EU services reform
4 February 2005, BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder drew cheers from trade unions and leftists Friday for opposing European Union proposals to create a single market for services in the 25-nation bloc. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso this week unveiled plans to allow service sectors including doctors, lawyers, architects, health service providers and other professionals to work anywhere in the EU. At present much of the EU service sector is limited to working within national mem
4 February 2005
BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder drew cheers from trade unions and leftists Friday for opposing European Union proposals to create a single market for services in the 25-nation bloc.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso this week unveiled plans to allow service sectors including doctors, lawyers, architects, health service providers and other professionals to work anywhere in the EU.
At present much of the EU service sector is limited to working within national member state boundaries by a jungle of often widely differing regulations.
Schroeder, on a regional election trip to Schleswig-Holstein state Wednesday, said the Commission's proposal would "not" be realised in its present form, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
The Chancellor, as quoted by news magazine Der Spiegel, said the EU had to accept different social standards would remain among member states and that trying to install a one-size-fits-all model would just make services "kaputt."
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Wednesday rejected Barroso's idea of a single E.U. services market as "unacceptable" and vowed France would "take every measure to oppose it."
Schroeder's chief spokesma, Bela Anda, insisted the Chancellor's comments did not amount to a policy shift.
But he underlined Berlin's stance by adding: "The justified requirements for protection (of services) in member states must be taken more seriously."
In Brussels, a spokeswoman for Barroso insisted the Commission would stick to its plans for introducing more service sector competition.
She added, however, that the Commission would play a constructive role regarding changes to the proposals and be "pragmatic about examining problems."
The E.U.'s still-regulated service sector compromises about 70 per cent of the total European economy. In contrast, industrial and consumer goods as well as foodstuffs circulate without barriers throughout the bloc.
Germany's Federation of Trade Unions hailed Schroeder's position on services and warned the Commission's model would lead to "wage and social dumping" across Europe.
"It cannot be that there is a competition among Europe's 25 legal systems and that the cheapest one is then implemented," said the union in a statement.
The anti-globalist group Attac welcomed Schroeder's stance as "a first step in the right direction."
But the economic policy spokesman of Germany's pro-business, opposition Free Democrats (FDP) slammed the Chancellor.
"Schroeder's protectionism means Europe will remain un-dynamic," said deputy FDP leader Rainer Bruederle.
Germany's struggling Mittelstand (small and medium-sized) service sector is hoping for new markets with the opening of the E.U., he said.
Schroeder's remarks came as his Social Democrats (SPD) are neck- and-neck with the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) in Schleswig- Holstein state which holds regional elections on 20 February.
The northern German state's SPD tends to be somewhat to the left of the national party and Schroeder's comments may have been timed to help incumbent SPD Prime Minister Heide Simonis secure reelection.
Subject: German news