Council of Competitiveness Ministers Agree Services Directive

Brussels, 30 May 2006 -- Last night in Brussels, the Council of Competitiveness Ministers reached agreement on the Directive that is set to liberalise Europe's services market. The final deal closely follows the European Parliament's proposal, agreed in February 2006 in Strasbourg.

On the first anniversary of the French 'No' vote, Conservative MEP Sir Robert Atkins heralded the new Services Directive which begins the process of opening up a sector which represents 70% of EU trade.

Speaking after a late night meeting with Austrian Minister Martin Bartenstein, who chaired the Council meeting, he said:

"I am delighted that companies and consumers across Europe are now set to benefit from competition and choice in services. Competitiveness Ministers have taken their role seriously and agreed a major step forward for Europe's internal market. They have agreed measures that encourage companies to move into new markets and will make it easier for them to get the information and complete any essential procedures. We now need to get this Directive into force as soon as possible, and ensure that governments operate the spirit of the proposal, not just the letter of it."

The Directive will now return to the European Parliament for a second reading. As the text is substantially based on Parliament's first reading proposal, it is expected to have a speedy passage into final approval later this year.

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