Mr President, it is very late at night for such a serious debate and the Commissioner must be tired. I should like to make just a few points which might freshen up the debate, or perhaps make you even more tired, Commissioner!
At the beginning of today’s debate I thought that it might be just an ideological clash between protectionism and an attempt to liberalise the market in services. I admit that I was a dreamer. Unfortunately it is more serious than that: the debate over the watered-down directive is beginning to bear the hallmarks of a clash between the new and the old.
We are used to listening to endless speculation about why people in the Member States do not understand the brave new European ideas. Why should they? I am a Member of the European Parliament representing the Czech Republic and defending the interests of the Czechs. The Czech Republic fully liberalised access to its market in the early 1990s. Many traditional but inefficient companies had to close. That resulted in a higher unemployment rate and heavy political losses. Is it not fair to expect the same of the old Member States? Go to any Czech town situated somewhere on the Czech/Austrian border and try to explain to a local service provider that he or she cannot provide their service in the same way as their Austrian competitors – and I stress, competitors – in their Czech town. I bet you will not succeed. Try to talk about noble European ideals and say in the same breath that they are not allowed to run their businesses freely wherever they choose. The idea of opening the internal market was a brave one, but today’s reality is just the proverbial crying over spilled milk.
I thank the Czech interpreters for their valiant work.