A proposed European services e-card designed to make it easier for companies to work in other Member States is being dismissed as having no real added-value, and as being unwanted by the construction industry.

FIEC (the European Construction Industry Federation), EFBWW (European Federation of Building & Wood Workers) and EBC (European Builders Confederation) have all expressed their concern about the proposed e-card, which is part of the Services package published by the European Commission on 10 January.

The European Commission said that it was presenting “an ambitious and balanced package of measures” that would make it easier for companies and professionals to provide services to a potential customer base of 500 million people in the European Union.

Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth investment and competitiveness, said, “Barriers to trade in services are also barriers to competitiveness. Making better use of the Single Market for services will help European businesses create jobs and grow across borders, offering a wider choice of services at better prices, while maintaining high standards for consumers and workers.

“Today we are proposing to simplify procedures for cross-border service providers as well as a new and more modern way for Member States to work together to regulate their services sectors.”

The new European services e-card is one of four concrete initiatives adopted by the Commission. It said that it was a simplified electronic procedure which would make it easier for providers of business services – for example, engineering firms, IT consultants, organisers of trade shows – and construction services to complete the administrative formalities required to provide services abroad.

It said that services providers would simply have to liaise with a single point of contact in their home country and in their own language, with that person then verifying the necessary data and transmitting it to the host Member State.

It was added that the host Member State would retain the current power to apply domestic regulatory requirements and to decide whether the applicant could offer services on its territory.

The Commission said the e-card would not affect existing employer obligations or workers’ rights.

Strongly rejected

FIEC and EFBWW – the officially recognised Social Partners for the construction industry – said they strongly rejected the European Commission’s attitude and proposal.

They said that following the publication of the Services package, they had carefully assessed the proposed services e-card and remained opposed to the proposal. They said they were extremely worried about the content, the procedure and its effective added value in the construction industry.

The two associations explained that the goal of the package to provide cheap services to European consumers went totally against the ambitions of the concerned social partners to deliver qualitative and competitive services and product, while ensuring decent social standards for all workers.

FIEC president Jean-Louis Marchand said, “We are extremely upset by the way the European Commission dealt with this dossier.

“The whole consultation process has been very opaque and the Commission’s services never provided us with real, constructive answers to the many concerns that we have raised. Now, there is a proposal on the table, which the concerned social partners, FIEC and EFBWW, clearly rejected, and which has never been asked for by our sector.”

He added, “We can hardly see its real added-value.”

The associations said that the Commission considered that there were too many obstacles hindering cross-border mobility in the construction sector, without taking into account the specificities of the concerned sectors.

Dietmar Schäfers, EFBWW president, said, “The re-introduction of the country-of-origin principle via a back-door for posting rules, combined with substantial loopholes and flaws makes the proposed package unacceptable for us.”

“The proposed e-services card will clearly facilitate cross-border fraud and social dumping.”

The two associations said they regretted that the European Commission missed the opportunity to strengthen a fair, competitive and innovative Internal Market in the construction industry.

Concerns shared

The EBC, an association whose members are SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in construction, also shared the major concerns on the methods and merits of this proposal.

EBC president Patrick Liébus said, “The European Commission has completely disregarded the need of the market with this new e-card.

“Not only did the sector not ask for it, but European construction trade unions and employers have actively called for its rejection. This goes in exactly the opposite direction than the smart regulation principle the Commission is supposed to apply.”

He added, “The vast majority of construction companies operate and will continue to operate mainly at a local/regional level, not necessarily because of administrative obstacles, but because of other barriers such as, for example, language, technical requirements, cultural differences, customer relations and so on.”

Liébus agreed that the e-card could facilitate cross-border frauds and also felt it could disrupt the effectiveness of controls undertaken by labour inspectorates.

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