After some three years of lengthy negotiations, an important EU directive liberalising Europe's vast services sector has finally been approved by the European Parliament. It aims to boost competition, by making it easier for a plumber or architect, for example, to set up shop in another EU state. In the Czech Republic, the self-employed have met the directive with mixed feelings. They welcome the fact that they will no longer have to be based or registered in the country they want to operate in. But the downside is that they will have to respect the laws and regulations of that country and not of their country of origin. Dita Asiedu spoke to economist and EU regulation specialist Petr Zahradnik and asked him about the directive's advantages and disadvantages for the Czech entrepreneur:
"I very much appreciate the move to eliminate some barriers such as the need to be registered in the host country or to prohibit the building of storage space or supplementary space for service activities. On the other hand, what is not so positive is that the directive on services fragments the service sector into different fields and areas. So, the directive does not apply to Czech services in the fields of security, consulting, or mediation, for example."
Now, a strong pessimist would say that the western European countries have won and the central and eastern European countries have lost...
"This may be a correct observation but on the other hand I think that the EU newcomers have made a step converging to the environment of western countries and it's quite understandable that western countries have built this fortress to be safe and their attitude to liberalisation is not so dynamic."
The trade and industry ministry estimates the directive to result in the country's GDP to increase by up to 40 billion crowns a year (an estimated 1.7 billion US dollars). It also expects some 19,000 new jobs to be created within three years. Is this realistic?
"The directive says people are free to provide their services in other EU countries but the rules are to be defined by the host countries themselves. This is a big uncertainty and I'm not sure whether one can be so optimistic or name such exact figures regarding the impact of the EU directive."
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