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The Draft Services Directive - Comments by the Norwegian Government 2 February 2006

The Draft Services Directive

Comments by the Norwegian Government 2 February 2006

Norway supports the general purpose to reduce barriers to trade in services in Europe and to contribute to economic and social progress. While removing barriers to trade we must also ensure an advanced European social model. Due to its potentially far-reaching consequences, the scope of the draft directive needs to be more clearly defined, including its effect on national regulations of the service sector, and one should aim at abolishing grounds for different interpretations. The present draft improves and clarifies important aspects of the Commission’s proposal. Still, certain elements of the draft give rise for deep concern.

It is essential that services provided are of high quality. Norway would like to underline the importance of public concerns, protection of the environment, working conditions, health and safety, consumer protection and local democracy. These objectives can be best achieved if relevant services provided in a country are coherent with existing standards. It is important that the presently proposed modifications of the draft directive allow for an effective supervision and enforcement by national authorities.

It is of utmost importance to the Norwegian Government that the host country maintains the authority it has today pursuant to the EEA Agreement to regulate, supervise and control required standards of health, environment, safety and quality for all service providers within its territory.

The Norwegian government strongly emphasizes the importance of member states’ right to organize the relationship between the social partners in a manner that is considered adequate, such as the possibility to enter into collective agreements. The Norwegian Government has consulted the social partners in Norway. The representatives of the workers are deeply concerned of possible negative effects of the draft directive regarding social dumping.

Norway interprets the proposal as not affecting the national governments’ authority to change the status of an activity from being open to competition to be the responsibility of the national, regional and local authorities.

Environment

Norway supports the amendment proposals concerning the protection of the environment. It is important that the Directive allows for an effective supervision and enforcement by national authorities of requirements necessary for the protection of the environment according to national law and the EEA agreement. Protection of the environment is of utmost importance and the Norwegian Government believes that this is best ensured if the host member state has the authority to regulate and supervise environmental requirements related to service activities in its territory.

Gambling activities, audiovisual services

Norway supports the proposal to except gambling activities from the scope of the draft directive. Norway also supports that audiovisual services are excepted. The Directive should not affect measures taken at Community or national level to protect or promote cultural or linguistic diversity.

Health care services

The Norwegian Government has noted that health care services are excepted from the scope of the draft directive. Norway supports that separate secondary legislation on patient mobility should be adopted at European level, if health care services are deleted from the Directive.

Application to activities open to competition

The Directive applies only to activities open to competition. The Norwegian Government supports that the Directive does not apply to services of general interest, and that it seems to be explicitly expressed that educational services provided for by public or private educational establishments are not covered by the scope of the Directive. We believe the concepts Services of General Interest and Services of General Economic Interest and their coherence could be clarified.

Norway interprets the proposal as not affecting national governments’ authority to change the status of an activity from being open to competition to be the responsibility of the national, regional and local authorities. This should be stated more clearly in the directive.

Consumer protection

Norway welcomes the clarification that contractual relations between the service provider and the client should not be subject of the directive.

Information on professional insurance and guarantees shall be provided to the recipients independently of whether the recipient has requested it or not. Norway appreciates this, but believes that this should apply also to after-sales guarantees.

Debt recovery

Judicial recovery of debts is excluded permanently from the scope of the Principle of free movement of services. Norway supports this, but believes that “judicial” should be deleted in such a way that the exception also covers extrajudicial recovery.

Sector directives’ precedence over a directive on services

Sector directives will prevail in case of conflict with a directive on services. Norway supports this amendment.

Further process

The Norwegian Government will follow the development of the draft services closely and will submit further comments as necessary when the draft is submitted by the Parliament to the Commission.