Chirac urges full review of EU 'open services' plan

15th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 15 (AFP) - Increasingly concerned about the result of a May referendum on the European constitution, President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday restated French objections to a controversial draft EU directive which would open up a cross-border market in services in the 25 member states.

PARIS, March 15 (AFP) - Increasingly concerned about the result of a May referendum on the European constitution, President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday restated French objections to a controversial draft EU directive which would open up a cross-border market in services in the 25 member states.

A day after EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso vowed to defend the so-called "Bolkestein" directive, Chirac was quoted by his spokesman as telling Barroso by telephone that the text needed to go back to the drawing board.

"The President of the Republic reminded the Commission president that the draft directive on services was unacceptable to France and to other European partners, and that it should be thoroughly reviewed," Chirac spokesman Jerome Bonnafont said.

France is 11 weeks from a referendum on the EU's proposed constitution, and the services directive has been seized on by the "no" camp as evidence that the European Union is being taken over by business interests.

With polls showing a decline in French support for the constitution, Chirac - who is urging a "yes" vote in the referendum - fears that the Bolkestein directive, left unchallenged, will hand more ammunition to the opposition, commentators said..

On Tuesday a survey in Le Monde newspaper showed that support for the EU constitution in France has fallen to 56 percent with 44 percent opposed. It was a drop of two points in a month.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Barroso said he had no intention of going back on the directive's so-called "country of origin" principle which lies at the heart of the objections raised in France and Germany.

The principle means that companies offering services throughout the 25 member states can operate under the laws and regulations of any country, but opponents say this will lead to "social dumping" as business relocates to eastern Europe where there is less worker protection.

Chirac "recalled the commitment made by the commission to revise the text in order to reach a consensus, which is the only acceptable method. He also recalled that France expects the commission to carry out this commitment and to work in the spirit of the constitutional treaty," Bonnafont said.

"He stressed that the revision must conform to the principle that has always applied to European construction: that development of the internal market goes hand-in-hand with harmonisation (of tax and social policies)," the spokesman said.

"Europe means the protection of social rights, it means fair conditions for competition, it means the development of public services and respect for cultural diversity," Chirac was quoted as saying.

Speaking Monday Barroso said: "Some people think the European Commission is there to protect the 15 against the new 10 (member states). It is not. It is there to promote the general interest of Europe."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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