From Sacchi to Uber: 60 years of services liberalization, ten years of the services directive in the EU

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The only partial completion of the EU internal market for services has arguably been one of the important stumbling blocks in unleashing economic growth throughout the Union. While being regarded as an outlier for decades, the freedom to provide services came to the forefront after a series of studies underlining the economic benefits of further services liberalization within the EU. In this regard, the Services Directive has been the controversial reaction of the EU legislature to this quest for a new ‘integration boost’. An initially central piece of the Lisbon Strategy, the Directive aims at the elimination of the remaining legal barriers to the achievement of the internal market for services, while ensuring legal certainty for service suppliers and consumers. The Directive operationalizes Articles 49 and 56 TFEU and, in several respects, consolidates six decades of case law delivered by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). This article offers a succinct account of the services-related integration story within the EU. It reviews 60 years of services-related case law, including the first 10 years after the adoption of the Services Directive and its first enforcement period. In this respect, it will argue that the Directive constitutes, along with EU primary law, an additional legal instrument to be used by the CJEU judges with a view to further pursuing the objectives of the internal market even at the domestic level. The second important level that the Directive operates relates to the transparency-enhancing and mutual-trust-building benefits from the implementation of the Directive. On a pessimistic tone, then, the article submits that the Directive will not serve as a vector for completing the single market in services anytime soon. In the end, its effectiveness will depend on the Member States’ discretion and the capacity of national regulators to build trust for the benefit of intra-EU mobility of service suppliers despite regulatory competition within the EU.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-250
Number of pages63
JournalYearbook of European Law
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2018


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