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2005-03-11

A revolution abandoned? 

I know that I'm terribly late to this party, but I've suddenly developed a huge, probably unhealthy appetite to get to the bottom of that doomed piece of EU legislation, the Bolkestein-directive on the liberalisation of services. Here is a summary of recent events in this matter with links to the original document as well as some recent newspaper commentary. Anti-Bolkestein initiatives seem to be countless, here is a multilingual example. And here is a Guardian article by George Monbiot from this week. Advocates are a bit harder to find. Since all the opponents seem to indulge in examples involving Lithuanian companies doing business in Western Europe, here is the - favourable - comment of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, a libertarian think-tank.

I'm far from having made up my mind yet, so please, dear potential commenters, try to influence this naive blogger. Somehow the revolutionary in me loves the main provocation in the directive, the country-of-origin principle: according to the directive, companies offering services in other EU countries would have to adhere only to the laws of their own country, not to those of the destination country. This should make it easier for SMEs to provide services across intra-EU-borders, thereby increasing competition and consumer choice in the whole EU. The opponents of the directive say that this is bound to lead to a spiral of ever lower standards in environmental and labour laws as member countries would try to improve the competitiveness of their local export-oriented service businesses. Unsatisfied consumers would have to sue a service provider in another country, which could be tough. On the other hand, if there was transparency on the applicable laws in each transaction, wouldn't it be great to shop for your preferred legal framework and resulting cost-base every time you go to a hairdresser? It all sounds pretty exciting. Is that alone enough reason to be completely, resolutely against?


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