Tuesday, 15 April 2008

EU TFEU: Liberalisation of services

A wishy-washy provision on further liberalisation of services is amended by the Treaty of Lisbon of the European Union (EU), but the interpretations range from nothing to the contradictory.

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma?



***

The Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) amends Article 53 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) in the following way (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/55):

59) In Article 53, the words ‘declare their readiness to’ shall be replaced by ‘shall endeavour to’.

***

As usual, the surrounding words have to be found in the latest consolidated version of the current treaties (OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/63):

Article 53 TEC

The Member States declare their readiness to undertake the liberalisation of services beyond the extent required by the directives issued pursuant to Article 52(1), if their general economic situation and the situation of the economic sector concerned so permit.

To this end, the Commission shall make recommendations to the Member States concerned.

***

In order to arrive at a new consolidated version of the provision according to the Lisbon Treaty, there are a few things to do: The specific amendment has to be inserted, possible horizontal amendments checked (none in this case) and the renumbering of the Article and the referral executed (Tables of equivalences) plus the location of the provision indicated for ease of comprehension:

Part Three ‘Policies and internal actions of the Union’

Title III (renumbered Title IV TFEU) ‘Free movement of persons, services and capital’

Chapter 3 ‘Services’

Article 53 TFEU (ToL), renumbered Article 60 TFEU

The Member States shall endeavour to undertake the liberalisation of services beyond the extent required by the directives issued pursuant to Article 52(1) [ToL, renumbered Article 59(1) TFEU], if their general economic situation and the situation of the economic sector concerned so permit.

To this end, the Commission shall make recommendations to the Member States concerned.

***

Article III-33 of the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was essentially the same as the current TEC provision. In other words, the member states ‘declare their readiness’ (OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/33).

***

Article III-148 of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe contained a small, but perhaps significant change of wording. Therefore, we present the proposed text here (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/64):

Article III-148 Constitution

The Member States shall endeavour to undertake liberalisation of services beyond the extent required by the European framework laws adopted pursuant to Article III-147(1), if their general economic situation and the situation of the economic sector concerned so permit.

To this end, the Commission shall make recommendations to the Member States concerned.

***

We see that there has been one change with some potential meaning between the current TEC and the Lisbon Treaty. It occurred during the IGC 2004 and appeared in the Constitutional Treaty.

‘The Member States declare their readiness’ became ‘The Member States shall endeavour’ to undertake liberalisation of services beyond the extent required.

Since the change of wording was express, it presumably has some meaning. What could it be?

***

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offers the following interpretation of Article 60 TFEU (Article 53 ToL) in ‘A comparative table of the current EC and EU treaties as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon’ (Command paper 7311; page 9):

“In substance the same as Article 53 TEC.”

The UK House of Commons Library Research Paper 07/86 (6 December 2007) presents the following view (page 31):

“Article 53 states that Member States “shall endeavour to” instead of “declare their readiness to” liberalise services beyond the requirements of directives adopted under Article 51 if they are able to. The stronger terminology is in line with the general requirement for solidarity.”

Our following example is the German ratification bill, „Gesetzentwurf der Bundesregierung: Entwurf eines Gesetzes zum Vertrag von Lissabon vom 13. Dezember 2007, Drucksache 16/8300, 28.02.2008“ (page 173):

Nummer 59: Artikel 53 [Artikel 60] wird geändert und an den Wortlaut von Artikel III-148 Ver- fassungsvertrag angepasst. Er verstärkt den Appell an die Mitgliedstaaten, bei der Liberalisierung des Dienstleistungsverkehrs innerhalb der Union über den durch Richtlinien festgelegten Min- deststandard hinauszugehen, indem die bisherige Erklä- rung der Bereitschaft durch eine Bemühenszusage ersetzt wird.“


Until now, we have one neutral assessment (FCO), and two interpretations underlining the stronger appeal to liberalisation of services: First, the UK Commons Library, although I fail to grasp the reference to solidarity, and second, the German federal government.

I tried to scan the IIEA Consolidated and annotated version of the treaties, the Swedish government’s presentation of the Lisbon Treaty (Ds 2007:48) and the ratification bill of the government of Finland (HE 23/2008 vp in Finnish, RP 23/2008 rd in Swedish) as well as the following documents of the French Assemblée nationale, namely Projet de loi (6 février 2008) and Rapport d’information No 562 Tome 1 & Tome 2 (8 janvier 2008), plus a number of comments on the Constitutional Treaty without finding any qualitative assessment.

***

Contrast this with the description and assessment of Klemens H. Fischer in “Der Vertrag von Lissabon” (Nomos, Stämpfli and Verlag Österreich; page 221):

„Diese Änderung ist substantiell und als Rückschritt zur Rechtslage de lege lata einzustufen. Bislang mussten die Mitgliedstaaten bereit sein, über das Ausmaβ der Liberalisierung der Dienstleistungen, zu dem sie aufgrund der Richtlinien gemäβ Artikel 52 Absatz 1 AEUV verpflichtet sind, hinauszugehen. Diese ohnehin bereits sehr schwach formulierte Pflicht der Mitgliedstaaten wird nunmehr noch weicher gefasst, indem sie sich in Hinkunft lediglich bemühen müssen. Diese Änderung geht auf eine Forderung Frankreichs zurück, das damit erreichte, dass diese Bestimmung und die daraus erwachsende Pflicht realiter nicht mehr justitiabel ist.

Konsequentermaβen hätte auf Grund dieser Änderung die gesamte Bestimmung gestrichen werden können, da ohnehin nur mehr die Fiktion der Pflicht aufrechterhalten wird.“

***

The provision expresses a fairly weak wish, anyhow, so it is no wonder that it has not drawn that much attention. But, somewhere during the IGC 2004 and IGC 2007 decisions have been made on express amendments. Surely with some intention?

For me, the allotted time is at an end, so I leave the rest to you during my time-out. .


Ralf Grahn