The directive on services in the Internal Market was designed to promote competitiveness, growth and employment in line with the Lisbon Strategy. It has, at the same time, triggered an intensive debate on the form to be taken by the freedom to provide services. The effects of the Directive on national labour markets, social conditions and consumer protection requirements remain a highly controversial issue.
The EESC considers the Commission's conclusions on the impact of the Services Directive and on the functioning of the services sector to be premature. The directive has been in force for only a few years. Not all the Member States are equally satisfied with the directive and they need to implement it in their own legislation in their own way; these are complicating factors that are not taken into account in the communication. The services sector is large and complex, with many different branches, and it will take time to streamline the single market for services by means of European legislation.
Health and related sectors are a central aspect of human existence and thus attract particular attention of citizens. The sectors of biomedical engineering and the medical and care services industry – including research and development – are among the fastest growing industrial areas, in terms of turnover as well as employment. Under biomedical engineering we understand the bridging between methods of engineering and medicine and biology for diagnostic and therapeutic measures in healthcare – including, among others, biologics and biopharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical drugs, various types of devices for chemical or biological analysis or processing as well as the development of medical equipment and technology for cure, treatment and prevention of disease. The combination of research and development, engineering and industrial production, and medical and care services is particularly important.
Digital technologies have reached a degree of maturity that allows their use across a wide range of economic sectors in manufacturing as well as in service industries. According to the 2010 edition of the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), more than 50% of the EU workforce use ICT in their daily work, with individual EU Member States reaching rates above 85%. Services sectors are identified as the heaviest users of ICT (for instance, more than 90% of finance employees using ICTS in their daily work), which is to be seen as a natural consequence of the increasing digitalisation of many services – such as eBanking, eCommerce, and online media.
With this highly political Opinion with interest for all involved stakeholders, but also for consumers or citizens in general, the EESC aims to reply to the questions set out in the Commission Green Paper. Through the Green Paper consultation, the Commission is trying to obtain a better understanding of the online gambling sector which is expanding rapidly, is cross-border in nature and is characterised by different national regimes being implemented by Member States.
A highly participated hearing was held in the framework of the second study group meeting to elaborate a well-balanced and more realistic opinion. This event had an enormous feedback in media.