A services passport, or e-card, is a document, proposed by the European Commission, to enable service providers to convey information through a single European workflow, in order to provide services across borders in the European Union. The passport aims to enhance cooperation between the home and host Member States in supporting service providers working on a cross-border basis. Under this arrangement, if the company requests it, the authorities of the home Member State will issue a services passport to help a company demonstrate that it can satisfy the requirements in the Member State where it wishes to provide the service. The host Member State will remain responsible for defining these requirements, as long as they comply with the relevant provisions of EU law. This would eliminate the need for multiple requests for information and documentation already provided to the home Member State, through the creation of an electronic repository of documents by the home country administration upon the request of a service provider. The passport would contain the following information:
- Identification of the provider, including references to company registers, VAT numbers, registration with a social security system;
- Identification of the Member State where a particular service activity would be offered;
- Information about a qualification or certification required in the home Member State;
- Information about good reputation (e.g. professional sanctions in the past);
- Information about existing insurance coverage.
The Commission issued a consultation on this issue in 2016, stating that, despite work on the implementation of the Services Directive, a number of requirements maintained by Member States still create barriers for the provision of services in other Member States. These are largely in the area of administrative requirements and, in some cases, regulatory requirements. As a result, cross-border investment and trade of services has been rather limited for some particular sectors, which, paradoxically have high cross-border integration potential: business services (in particular architectural, engineering and accountancy services) and construction services. This proposal aims to improve cross-border investment and trade in these sectors.
After a range of stakeholder consultation and impact assessment exercises, the Commission issued a proposal for a services e-card on 10 January 2017. It will be adopted by the Council and Parliament once the necessary legislative scrutiny has taken place.
However, the proposal is opposed by trade unions. The ETUC states that the proposal will increase the incidence of undeclared work and letter box companies, undermine labour standards, fair pay and collective agreements and increase social dumping. The ETUC is also concerned that it will undermine the posted workers Directive (Directive 96/71/EC) and the Enforcement Directive (Directive 2014/67/EU). UniEuropa has stated its fears that it is an attempt to reintroduce the Bolkenstein services Directive, which was withdrawn in 2006. Construction sector trade unions are also opposed to the proposal, which they feel is likely to generate additional problems, facilitate cross-border abuse and disrupt the efficiency of the daily work of labour inspectorates.
For the employers, BusinessEurope, in a position paper on the proposal, states that while it broadly supports this initiative, much will depend on how it is designed and how it will work in practice. It says that it can only support this if it genuinely reduces administrative burden for companies, leads to regulatory simplification and streamlining, makes it easier for service providers to find out which requirements they must comply with in a host Member State and has a very clearly defined scope in agreement with the stakeholders directly affected in the construction and business services sectors. It should also remain voluntary and be strictly enforced where it is in place.