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Service with a smile

Tuesday November 3rd, 2009

By Morven MacNeil, GO Features Editor

Delegates at the recent GO Conferences Implementing the EU Services Directive Conference heard about the actions that need to be taken when the new Directive comes into force in December.

The EU Services Directive, which will be implemented from 28 December 2009, aims to break down barriers to cross-border trade in services between countries in the EU.

It is hoped the Directive will make it easier for UK service providers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to offer their services to customers in other EU countries, whether by establishing elsewhere in the EU or by providing services remotely from the UK. The implementation of the Directive is a major step towards completing the EU Single Market for cross-border services trade. The implementation and operation of the Points of Single Contact will be particularly important, as these electronic portals will provide the gateway, or at least ease the path, to new markets for many service providers across Europe.

The GO Conferences Implementing the EU Services Directive Conference 2009, organised by BiP Solutions and held at the Cavendish Conference Centre, London on 7 October, provided delegates with the relevant information buyers and suppliers need in order to prepare for the forthcoming changes.

A number of keynote speakers pointed attendees to some of the resources and legislation available to help procurement practitioners with the implementation of the new Directive. Speakers included Norman Rose, Chair, SITPRO Ltd and Chair of the Conference; Maria Martin-Prat, Head of Unit, Directorate General Internal Market and Services, European Commission (EC); Oliver Bretz, Partner, Clifford Chance LLP; Tina Sommer, Chair, International Committee, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB); and John Alty, Director General, Fair Market Groups, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Maria Martin-Prat spoke about the importance of the service sector within the European economy and how the EC has been helping the 27 Member States prepare to implement the Services Directive for the past three years. As Europe’s economies move from being industrial based to service based, services now account on average for 70 per cent of GDP across all EU Member States. Ms Martin-Prat said: “Services are indeed the bulk of our economy, the bulk of the creation of employment and the area of the economy where innovation happens.”

Ms Martin-Prat also discussed in depth the different barriers affecting SMEs in the services sector and how it is hoped the new Directive will remove these obstacles. She explained: “SMEs are badly affected by certain barriers; larger companies will easily assume the cost of regular trade compliance. We were missing a way to clean the legislation of barriers and the options were either to legislate everything or have another approach. The Services Directive will cover all of the services sector unless there are sectors which are explicitly excluded from its scope of application.

The four areas in the Directive which are important are administrative simplification, the lifting of barriers to establishment, lifting of barriers to provision of services, and administrative cooperation.”

Oliver Bretz said: the Services Directive will not take away the need to challenge barriers, but it will make the process easier. He said: You can never scrutinise every single barrier that may exist. So don’t assume that once the scrutiny process is over, all barriers will have disappeared. I expect that barriers will still be there, but you don’t need legislation to close markets.”

Tina Sommer also urged the public sector to ‘get the message out there’ with regards to the new Directive. She stressed: “SMEs are not aware of what’s coming. They may not be interested in it but if you get the message out then maybe they will.”

Norman Rose took a similar stance, saying there were definite opportunities for those who represent the services sector to help their clients to do business better. He said: “Across Europe that is beginning to become reasonably clear; because of the economic downturn companies have become leaner and much meaner operations.”

John Alty spoke about the measures BIS is taking with the implementation of the new Directive. He said: “We’re working hard to put in place conditions for future success and a strategy that will help businesses create jobs as the economy begins to pull out of the recession. We have an objective of creating fair and open markets at home and abroad, increasing the opportunities for new and existing businesses and giving consumers a fair deal.”

Engaging and enlightening in equal measure, the Implementing the EU Services Directive Conference gave attendees the information they required to implement the scope of the Directive compliantly and maximise the benefits and opportunities the Directive offers.

Further information

For further information and a full speaker list, please visit: www.goconferences.co.uk

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