When the EP approved a package of compromises reached by the main political groups in February 2006, the ETUC regarded this as a major victory for European citizens and workers, because the majority of trade unions' demands are met:
- the country of origin principle is abolished, enabling Member States to exercise better supervision and to apply national rules to protect the public interest;
- labour law is excluded, and in particular issues linked to the posting of workers;
- fundamental rights to collective bargaining and action are to be respected;
- services of general interest and some services of general economic interest, such as healthcare and social services are excluded;
- sensitive sectors, such as temporary work agencies and private security services are excluded.
The ETUC has welcomed the backing of the compromise by the Commission and then the Council in its first reading, but criticised the introduction by the Council of some ambiguous language with regard to the most sensitive issues, such as the exclusion of labour law and respect for fundamental rights. Unfortunately, the European People's Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) members did not want to support proposals to clarify those ambiguities during the second reading. Although the Commission has tried to address the demands for clarification by coming up with a declaration accompanying the adoption of the Directive, the ETUC regrets that the European Parliament has refrained from playing its democratic role to the full until the end of the process.
The ETUC and its affiliates will pay special attention to the transposition of the Directive into national law, and monitor its proper implementation.
Furthermore, the ETUC will continue its fight for improvements in several areas: campaigning for better European regulation of public services and pushing for urgent adoption of European regulation especially in sensitive sectors such as temporary agencies.
From the very beginning, the draft Directive on Services in the internal market, issued on 13 January 2004 by Commissioner Bolkestein, raised serious concerns among trade unions all over Europe. The proposals would speed up deregulation, seriously erode workers' rights and protection, and damage the supply of essential services to European citizens.
The ETUC welcomed the fact that the EP in its first reading organised hearings on the directive and consulted the ETUC during the various stages of its deliberations on this proposal, something which the Commissioner had not considered necessary, as he mistakenly did not see this proposal as a ‘social policy' measure (about which social partners according to the European Treaty have to be consulted).
The ETUC organised two major Euro-demonstrations to say “No to the Bolkestein Directive”: the first gathered more than 75 000 people on 19 March 2005 in Brussels in parallel to the deliberations in the European Parliament, and the second in Strasbourg before the vote in European Parliament plenary on 14 February 2006.