Bolkestein slams French 'open services' dissent

20th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

THE HAGUE, March 20 (AFP) - Former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein on Sunday blasted French protests against the EU's open services plan, dubbed the Bolkestein directive, as "short-sighted" and the result of French party politics.

THE HAGUE, March 20 (AFP) - Former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein on Sunday blasted French protests against the EU's open services plan, dubbed the Bolkestein directive, as "short-sighted" and the result of French party politics.

"Leftwing groups are resisting for party political reasons: they are using the directive to attack the French rightwing government," he told Dutch public television Sunday.

Bolkestein, who left as EU commissioner four months ago and has no current political position in the Netherlands, said he would travel to France in the coming weeks to explain his plans.

"First I refused to comment on the directive and referred people to the new internal market commissioner who has to implement the plan but now that my name has become so linked with the issue and the pressure is mounting I will travel to Paris in about two weeks to give interviews," the liberal politician said.

Originally conceived over a year ago, the Bolkestein directive is meant to complete the EU's single market by making it possible for service providers - anyone from accountants to architects - to operate without restriction throughout the 25 member states.

One of its key measures is the so-called "country of origin" principle, which means that companies offering services in all the member states can operate under the laws and regulations of any single one.

But this has been seized on by opponents as a sign that US-style big business economics are running rampant over the EU, and they warn that the directive will lead inevitably to "social dumping" - companies and jobs relocating to the low-cost economies of eastern Europe.

Bolkestein said Sunday the idea that his directive would lead to "social dumping" was "clear nonsense".

According to the former commissioner the French government's decision to oppose the plan was the result of a French fear of losing influence in Brussels and the sentiment that Paris no longer feels at home in the European Union.

"Linking the services directives so clearly to my name points to certain xenophobic feelings," Bolkestein said.

"It is only in France that they are consciously stressing the Germanic feel of my name: Bolkestein," he explained.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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