In a special summit conference of the European heads of state and government in March 2000 it was postulated that Europe should be made the worldwide most competitive and dynamic economic area. In this context the considerable growth potential of the services sector has been identified. Against this background the Directive 2006/123/EC relating to services in the internal market has been issued (EU Services Directive).
This Directive is intended as an important step towards the creation of a single internal market for services by a package of measures that will counteract the fragmentation and remove barriers. However, this task is not comprehensive. The Directive expressly excludes penal law, labour law and collective bargaining law, the law of labour disputes and regulations concerning occupational safety and social security. The EU Services Directive is expressly inapplicable to a number of activities, as, for instance, in the field of taxes, financial services, temporary-employment agencies, traffic services, health services, gambling and audiovisual services.
The EU Services Directive (SD) covers, for instance, the fields of management consultancy, certification and examination services, advertising, legal and tax counselling, services of travel agencies, tourism services, leisure activity services.
In the fields covered by the Directive bureaucratic barriers shall be removed by
- adjustment of the national regulations to the yardsticks established by the Directive. These yardsticks mostly refer to the legal decisions of the European Court of Justice regarding freedom of establishment and services
- establishment of ‘points of single contact’ as contacts for handling all procedures and formalities within the scope of application of the EU Services Directive. Certainly, the one-stop-shop idea is not a new concept; however, it is the first time that it is laid down in a legally binding form
- procedural requirements creating enhanced transparency for the applicant. Without regard to the fact whether the point of single contact is involved or not, it is a matter of principle that the competent authorities should confirm the receipt of applications and, if these applications are incomplete, they shall inform the applicant without delay about the documents to be subsequently submitted. If the submitted documents are complete, a decision on the application will have to be made within a defined period.
- obligation of the point of single contact to inform providers and recipients of services about procedures, competent authorities, access to register, available remedies and supporting associations.
- availability of information and procedural handling also by electronic means.
This relief for providers of services are balanced by the following new control procedures of the administrative bodies and by measures enhancing consumer protection:
- trans-national cooperation of administrative bodies using a European network for data exchange, the ‘Internal Market Information System’ (IMI). The IMI is a safe web-supported application directed by the EU Commission. It is a closed network providing the competent authorities in the Member States with a simple tool to locate the respective contact in the other Member States and to quickly and efficiently communicate with him. Within the IMI any demand for information is satisfied through a structured compilation of questions and answers. The questions have been translated by the translation service of the European Commission in all official languages so as to warrant a reliable and legally valid linguistic support.
- an early warning system for expected grave health or environmental damage or for hazards to the safety of persons on account of their service activities
- requirements relating to information to be provided by the provider of services
- voluntary development of quality control measures
- codes of conduct to be developed by the professional associations at Community level