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Services sector needs clear and well enforced Single Market rules  

Removing unjustified obstacles to the cross-border provision of services would speed up economic recovery in Europe, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) believes. The opinion drafted by Jean-Luc Vanraes (BE/Renew Europe), Member of Uccle Municipal Council, will be adopted in the CoR plenary session this week.

More than ten years after the entry into force of the Services Directive , providers in a range of service sectors still face a wide array of barriers when they want to establish themselves in another Member State or provide services on a temporary cross-border basis . While services account for around 70% of both GDP and jobs in Europe, intra-EU trade in services represents only one third of intra-EU trade in goods and shows no signs of catching up.

At the same time, the legislative proposals for the European services e-card are blocked in the legislative process and the proposed directive on services notification procedure has progressed very slowly. The European Committee of the Regions therefore urges the other institutions to find common ground and provide simple and clear rules for cooperation between authorities, with the aim to reduce administrative burden.

" Cross-border service providers still face the same costs in fulfilling administrative formalities. The services e-card was supposed to reduce these by half, which would have been of major benefit to SMEs", rapporteur Jean-Luc Vanraes recalls. " However, the legislative, technical and administrative burden for local and regional authorities entailed in introducing the services e-card must be proportionate to the expected benefits."

Many cities and regions also face challenges in terms of capacity and resources to cope with the potential consequences of notification requirements, in view of the European Court of Justice ruling ( Visser Vastgoed case ) on the application of the Services Directive to the retail sector and to town planning..

"There is need to strike the right balance between the notification obligations and the added value for reaching the objectives of the Services Directive, taking into account that most local and regional regulations have an insignificant effect on the Single Market and are likely to comply with the Services Directive's requirements", rapporteur Vanraes points out.

The opinion suggests that the European Commission should come up with a set of quantitative and/or qualitative criteria to evaluate which type of local and regional regulations could be exempted from notification under the Services Directive. Decentralising elements of implementation, including notification, could also allow for a more accurate assessment of the regional and local public interest.

The Committee also highlights that a well-functioning Single Market is particularly important for border regions and believes that EU cross-border cooperation instruments such as European Groupings for Territorial Cooperation (EGTCs) can play a useful role in this regard.


Lauri Ouvinen

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