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Business

German Unions Welcome EU Decision

Germany's powerful DGB union federation welcomed on Wednesday a decision by European Union leaders to revise their controversial plans to free up Europe's vast services sector. Pressure has built for the plans to be reworked, in particular due to concerns about a "country-of-origin" clause which suggests that companies could provide services throughout the EU using the laws of their own country. "We call on the European Commission to dare to make a new start right now, to forget the country-of-origin principle and agree on rules that will give all workers an opportunity," DGB chairman Michael Sommer said in a statement. "A real European community that everyone can accept can only be created if we consider the notion of 'social standards' to be a European value," he said. Sommer said that the "the protests by 60,000 union members from around Europe had obviously persuaded the decision makers that a Europe still heading toward lower social standards has no future." An estimated 50,000 demonstrators from across the continent took part in a protest in Brussels at the weekend against the plans, which have been dubbed the Bolkestein directive, after former EU

commissioner Frits Bolkestein. The directive is intended to slash red tape and create a genuine single market in Europe in the services sector, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the EU's gross domestic product and jobs. It is a major part of the Lisbon agenda, set out five years ago at the height of the dot-com bubble when EU leaders vowed to turn Europe into the world's leading knowledge-based economy by 2010. Trade unions however say it will drive standards and wages down to the level of the poorer countries and encourage businesses to set up their headquarters in countries where the laws are weakest.

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