Frankenstein’s – or rather Bolkenstein’s – monster was resurrected in Brussels on Tuesday, reopening some raw wounds.
The services directive, which received its nickname from angry trade unions after it was tabled by Frits Bolkestein, the fiery liberal Dutch ex-internal market commissioner, was the hottest political potato in town last year.
It was supposed to allow plumbers, doctors, hairdressers and other to ply their trade freely across borders. Unions and Socialist parties said it would lead to social dumping and a race to the bottom for labour rights. Rightwingers said the EU’s internal market was a nonsense without it, since service trade was far bigger than that in goods.
A painfully stitched-together compromise removed health services and the idea that they should abide by the laws of their countries of origin rather than where they worked.
The European parliament patted itself on the back for coming up with the proposal and getting warring national governments to endorse it too. On Tuesday, however, dissident rightwingers in the European People’s party joined Liberals to back a surprise call for health services to be put back in.