Timmerman, Peter. (2009) Legislating amidst public controversy: the Services Directive. Egmont Paper No. 32, October 2009. [Policy Paper]
Introduction. The adoption of the Services Directive in 2006 constituted the final act of one of the most controversial pieces of European legislation adopted in recent years. The highly ambitious proposal quickly met resistance in the public opinion, since the proposal was feared to clear the way for social dumping and was believed to lead to a race to the bottom regarding worker’s rights. The ‘Bolkestein Directive’, named after the Commissioner for Internal Market who launched the proposal, thus quickly became a highly controversial document. From the outset, its importance for the single market in services made the proposed directive a high profile issue. For the Barroso Commission, it was one of its principal dossiers, although it was initially put on the table by the Prodi Commission in the beginning of 2004. Charlie Mc Creevy, the new Commissioner for the Internal Market, found himself thus confronted with a highly controversial matter. Although he initially defended the proposal, the co-decision procedure forced him to give in to the fierce opposition of the European Parliament, which reflected the growing dislike in the public opinion. The controversy surrounding the directive is even believed to be one the reasons for the rejection of the European Constitution in the French and Dutch referenda in 2005. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the decision-making process the Services Directive has gone through. The first part contains a brief overview of the rationale behind the proposal (1), after which the situation of the internal market in services will be analysed (2). The next parts describe the Commission’s initial proposal (3), the way in which it was amended by the European Parliament (4), the modified Commission text (5) and its final adoption (6). The seventh part contains a critical appraisal of the Services Directive (7). Finally, the role of the Institutions is being looked at (8).
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