While services in Europe account for about 70% of EU GDP and some 90% of new jobs created, cross-border provision of services is still under-developed. Companies still face many obstacles when providing their services across borders and experience that a true single market for services is not a reality yet.

It is essential that services markets become more integrated and more competitive to create growth and jobs, and to be able to compete with the rest of the world. The single market for services still has an untapped potential between €337 bn to €637 bn (source: EPRS of the European Parliament, Cost of Non-Europe, 2015), and even if the range is so wide due to complexities of data collection on services, it is deemed that these figures might significantly underestimate the overall potential gains of a fully-fledged single market for services.

Despite the progress made with the 2006 services directive, many barriers remain due to its diverse interpretation and application on the ground. There is a need for much better implementation of the directive by member states and enforcement measures where non-compliance with its provisions is detected. To ensure this, transparency on requirements related to provision of services, adopted by member states at all levels, from national to local, should be ensured and dialogue with stakeholders reinforced.

Other remaining obstacles relate to uneven interpretation and application of rules on free movement of labour, such as posted workers, diverse national service standards, lack of recognition of professional qualifications, still high number of regulated professions that fragment labour markets, double insurance obligations, strains on company mobility, e-commerce barriers and complexity in tax activities. There are also regular issues to be addressed in relation to interplay with the rules on applicable law and consumer protection legislation.


Michelle Marie Philipp

+32 2 237 65 58
Last updated: 18 February 2019