The Assembly of European Regions (AER) welcomes the European Council’s decision on the Directive on Services (Bolkestein Directive). The AER has insisted that the Bolkestein Directive must be revised to take better account of the European social model.
‘The regions fully support the European Union’s initiative to complete the internal market in services and to promote European economic growth,’ said Stig-Erik Westmark, President of the AER Committee for Social Cohesion, Social Services and Public Health and Chairman of the International Committee of the Västmanland region (S). ‘However, we must not forget the importance of health and social services in complementing and supporting European economic growth. The AER has repeatedly called on the European Council to uphold the European social model and not to move to the liberalisation of these service sectors, without first evaluating their special features.’
Johanna Mikl-Leitner, President of the AER Committee for Culture, Education & Training, Youth and Minister for Youth of Land Niederösterreich (A) added ‘Culture, education and audiovisual services are an integral part of the European social model and cannot be treated as mere commercial commodities. Europe’s cultural and educational diversity contribute to economic growth and competitiveness. These sectors should not be indiscriminately subjected to the internal market rules, as this would endanger the diversity and the quality of their contents.’
The AER has called upon the European Commission to first evaluate the impact of the liberalisation carried out so far in some service sectors, before proceeding to the liberalisation of further service sectors. Following the debate on Services of General Interest in 2004, the AER calls upon the European Commission to respect its stated intention of further assessing the special features of health, social, culture and education services before it takes any legislative action in these fields.
Any European action in these sectors should respect the regions’ competencies in organising, providing and financing these services for their citizens. Under the current text of the Bolkestein Directive, regions would lose their powers to regulate their schools or health and social services, because practitioners from countries with less stringent standards would be allowed to provide services according to the rules and requirements of their home countries.
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