Expatica news

Belgium under EU scrutiny again

2 February 2005

BRUSSELS – Belgium and France are to be targeted again in the European Commission’s drive to liberalise a whole range of services  in the EU.

A controversial directive, first drafted by ex-Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein, has now resurfaced in the new EU administration.

Dubbed the ‘Bolkestein directive’ the law would allow professionals like estate agents, architects, health care professionals, tax advisers and a whole host of other experts to provide services across the EU.

At present the service sector is still heavily regulated in many EU states and it is often very hard for non-nationals, even if they come from other Union countries, to carry out their trade.

Liberalisation of services has been billed as a key element of the EU’s so-called Lisbon strategy to boost jobs and growth in Europe.

But the draft EU law has sparked concern among Belgium’s left wing parties and trade unions over a clause setting out the so called ‘country of origin’ principle.

The opponents are concerned that the legislation could threaten jobs in Belgium if professionals from EU states with lower wages and taxes were allowed to offer their services here at more competitive rates than nationals.

The Commission is currently trying to thrash out a compromise deal on its planned new law with members of the European Parliament.

But many analysts predict that the institution will face an uphill battle to get the legislation passed in anything like its original form.

French President Jacques Chirac, one of the EU’s biggest political hitters, made it clear on Wednesday that he thought the legislation needed to go “back to the drawing board.”

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news