Since the adoption of the CoR's opinion on the services package in October 2017, the ECJ's 2018 "Visser Vastgoed" ruling has shed new light on the current notification regime under the services package. Also the Commission's legislative proposals on the European services e-card and the notification procedure have not been approved yet, which could raise questions regarding the issues these proposals are aimed to address. In this context, the CoR is preparing a revised opinion on the services package.
The revised CoR opinion is aimed at setting our the CoR's position on the proposed new notification rules for member states, and the implications of the ECJ's Visser Vastgoed judgment and how these might be dealt with in the framework of the new notification directive.
It looks at which new initiatives are needed in order to tackle barriers to cross-border provision of services and what types of initiatives should be envisaged.
An important point at issue concerns the proposal for binding rulings by the Commission in relation to the compatibility of notified draft laws and regulations with the Services Directive. In the context of the on-going policy debate, the opinion puts forward the CoR's view on this issue.
Finally, the ECJ's Visser Vastgoed judgement raises potentially important issues for local authorities relating to administrative burden and delay associated with notification of land-use plans, possible uncertainty about the validity and applicability of zoning plans, and possible intrusion in local authorities' freedom to regulate local matters falling within their responsibility. The opinion formulates the CoR's stance on how the notification rules could be adapted in the light of the ECJ ruling.
July/August 2020: dissemination of opinion to EESC, EC, EP and Council
17 September 2020: follow-up meeting with DG GROW
January 2021: feedback to the rapporteur on (i) a study commissioned by the EP's IMCO committee (November 2020), on the Legal obstacles in Member States to Single Market rules, where a suggestion is made to establish national, regional or local bodies to help the Commission enforce the Services Directive. This is in line with the 'decentralised elements of implementation' mentioned in point 37 of the opinion and represents a convergence that can be further built on; and (ii) on the EC's follow-up to the adopted opinions of the CoR's July 2020 session.
Janurary 2021: European Parliament resolution of 20 January 2021 on strengthening the single market: the future of free movement of services
Similar to the CoR in its opinion, the EP urges all Member States to ease unjustified and disproportionate barriers preventing the free movement of services within the single market as soon as possible and encourages the Commission to use all means at its disposal to fully enforce existing rules.
23 April 2021: As a follow up to the Opinions the CoR adopted in 2020 on the Single Market, Mr Thomas Wobben, Director for Directorate C - Legislative Works, was invited to the Council Working Party on Competitiveness and Growth on 23 April 2021. At the meeting, he presented the perspective of the CoR on the barriers to the single market and the enforcement of the single market rules (in particular related to the free movement of services and goods). This included the following points: (i) an overview of areas where LRAs play an important role in the enforcement of the single market; (ii) the key messages from and follow-up to the CoR's 2020 revised opinion on the services package (Vanraes RE/BE); and (iii) the key messages from and follow-up to the CoR's opinion on the EC's March 2020 single market barriers report and enforcement action plan (Truskolaski EA/PL).
Mr. Wobben underlined the importance of the notification procedure iand the implications of the ECJ's Visser Vastgoed ruling for LRAs. He also highlighted the convergence of the EP's and the CoR's positions on the single market barriers and enforcement of its rules.
The presentation ended with a set of ideas to enhance the cooperation between the CoR and the Council, with the aimto promote the CoR's positions on specific issues related to the Single Market.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- acknowledges that the Single Market is a major achievement of EU policy that underpins European competitiveness, prosperity and consumer well-being; underlines that a properly functioning Single Market also contributes to boosting economic growth, innovation and employment at regional and local levels and that regional and local authorities, as important public procurers, benefit from a better functioning Single Market, including in services;
- stresses that unjustified barriers to the cross-border provision of services, mainly resulting from diverging national rules and procedures, are among the main causes of the sector's poor performance and that removing these obstacles would give service providers and customers greater opportunities to make full use of the potential of the Single Market, that further action should be based on demonstrated needs of service providers; that the enormous diversity of services sectors may require a more sector-specific approach and that regional and local governments could play an important role in solving the problems that arise;
- points out that without the implementation of a services e-card, cross-border service providers still face the same costs in fulfilling administrative formalities and that the services e-card was supposed to reduce these by half, which would have been of major benefit to SMEs;
- sees an opportunity in the improvement of the notification procedure under the Services Package to address the issues raised by the ECJ's Visser Vastgoed ruling and calls upon the co-legislators to concentrate their efforts on coming up with solutions during the current negotiations on the notification procedure, which also ensure that the procedure provides the necessary legal certainty;
- stresses that many local and regional authorities face challenges in terms of capacity and resources to cope with the administrative burden of the current legal notification obligation – in view of the ECJ's ruling – and that any new notification procedure should take this into account in order to reduce that administrative burden as much as possible.