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Services Directive: the rule of law, the only guarantee of fair competition and fair working

The European Economic and Social Committee's Single Market Observatory (SMO) has completed its survey on the workings of the Services Directive in the very complex construction sector. The conclusion is clear: the sensitive balance between the freedom to provide cross-border services and the need for effective instruments to monitor and enforce labour standards must be further strengthened. 

Much has been achieved, but more has yet to be done, starting with the urgent need to make the single market a reality. As the survey suggests, there is no need for more legislation but proper enforcement of existing laws is a core issue. To this end, a number of steps need to be taken, including - but not limited to - European minimum standards for inspection services, a European compendium of tax and social concepts and the introduction of a European social security number. In the construction sector, it is also vital to overcome any discrepancies between the principles of the country of destination and those of the country of origin.

As Martin Siecker, president of the Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption, said: "All services, cross-border or not, are provided by people for people and all legal, social and financial aspects are interconnected. There is, therefore, a need for a common approach, for cooperation among Member States, genuine good governance and a further strengthening of dialogue between social partners and public authorities."

Bogus self-employment, fraudulent firms moving from one Member State to another to avoid possible prosecution and deficient law enforcement at national and cross-border level are just some of the problems that need to be addressed at the highest level. Society in general and the construction sector in particular would benefit from a coherent EU-wide approach.

The role of the SMO is to analyse how the single market operates, identify problems and obstacles and propose solutions from a civil society perspective. This study is a snapshot of the current situation on the ground. Its aim is to elicit responses to controversial and in some cases explosive developments. Civil society can make concrete, experience-based proposals, provide examples of best practices and help establish common European criteria wherever they are needed.

The results of the survey will be sent to all relevant institutions and to the new European Parliament and Commission in order to facilitate necessary, comprehensive, objective and realistic policy amendments


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