Brussels to push EU-wide standards for services

Eur Activ
01.06.2011

The European Commission will unveil plans on Wednesday (1 June) to introduce EU-wide standards for the provision of “all services” ranging from tourism to logistics, according to draft proposals seen by EurActiv.

The new regulation, to be presented on Wednesday by Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani, is designed to enable “the Commission to issue mandates requesting the development of European service standards,” reads the draft legislative proposal.

The move confirms previous Commission announcements made in April as part of the Single Market Act relaunch and would complement the Commission’s current rule-setting powers on manufactured goods.

“All services will be included in the scope of the regulation,” a Commission official told EurActiv after an extraordinary meeting of the commissioners’ heads of cabinets, held yesterday (30 May).

“The regulation will allow the Commission to intervene in standards ranging from tourism to green economy services,” explained the high-ranking official.

“Even liberal professions, such as legal services or engineering consultancies, fall under the scope of the regulation, which could go as far as imposing standards on tariffs,” the official went on.

Industry concerns

The Commission is proposing to expand its power to decide upon common standards, although the documents underline that these should always be “market-driven”, “consensus-based” and mainly “voluntary”.

Indeed, when a standard is proposed by a European standardisation body and has wide backing, it is going to be more difficult for individual firms to oppose it without isolating themselves.

However, the Commission’s approach has already provoked an outcry among European companies, which argue that consumers should ultimately decide which product or services best meets their needs.

Many businesses fear a spree of regulation which could ultimately affect the market. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which loudly criticised the Commission’s approach, will have another reason to complain since the original text was changed at the last minute to scrap their voting rights on deciding standards.

According to the current draft, approved by the Commission yesterday, only representatives of the 27 EU member states will have the opportunity to voice their opinion.

A review, to be conducted in 2013, “will examine if voting rights should be granted for selected European organisations representing SME and societal stakeholders,” it says.

The first draft instead read: “The position of European Associations representing SMEs and societal stakeholders should be strengthened, including the granting of voting rights to these groups.”

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