Liotard tells Barroso: ‘You're still going too far and too fast!’

20 October 2005

Liotard tells Barroso: ‘You're still going too far and too fast!’

SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard this afternoon took part in a debate with European Commission President José Barroso. The chance to speak directly to Mr Barroso was provided by the fact that he must periodically meet with the presidents of the Europan Parliament's seven political groups. As a vice-president of the United Left Group (GUE/NGL), Ms Liotard stood in for group president Francis Wurtz, who was unavailable. She took the opportunity to issue Mr Barroso with a personal invitation to visit the Netherlands in order to discuss the reasons why the Dutch people had rejected the proposed constitution, then explained her own and the SP's views on the question.

Kartika Liotard“Mr Barroso, in all of your speeches so far you have used attractive-sounding expressions such as 'modernisation' and 'flexibility' when referring to the European social model. ‘Employment-friendly wages’ and 'enterprise-friendly regulation' sound fine, but why don't you just for once say what you really mean? In all of your proposed measures, such as the 'Bolkestein' Directive on Services in the Internal Market, the Ports Services Directive and the Working Time Directive, these fine-sounding words actually mean, in my opinion, the following: ‘modernisation’ is, above all, the opening of health care, public transport, pension provision, energy supply, water management and sections of the education system to the market. By ‘flexibility’ is meant that should your boss wish it you will have to work longer hours for the same wages, as well as the dismantling of social security and other social achievements and replacing them with 'the citizen's own responsibility'. ‘Employment friendly wages’ are in plain language generally lower wages, and 'enterprise-friendly regulation' or 'business-friendly legislation' means nothing more or less than the scrapping of regulations the purpose of which is the creation of an environment-friendly society where consumers are well-protected and workers enjoy decent conditions.

“Your interpretation of 'freedoms' largely comes down to the rights of the economically strongest. Your credo is first profit then people. I would rather see things the other way round: first people, then profit. That would also be closer to the discontent of European citizens when, in the Netherlands and France, they rejected the constitution.

“My group is currently also holding a conference in London on the subject of the ‘European social model’, together with British trade unions which are also dead against the above-named directives and the constitution.

“In the Netherlands a broad discussion on the future of Europe should be organised, but this isn't happening because the majority of politicians find it unnecessary to listen to the public. I am sure you do not share this view, and I invite you to come to the Netherlands for a debate or discussion with leading public figures from the No-campaign as well as ordinary citizens in order to give you a better impression of why people voted so heavily against the constitution. That could surely help you in your search for ways to proceed and when you have to speak to government leaders on the future of the European social model.

“The no-vote was a vote in particular against a too fast-moving, too far-reaching Europe, against too much liberalisation, against the destruction of any hope of a social Europe. The same can be said of the massive resistance against the Port Services Directive and the Directive on Services in the Internal Market. I have asked you in a letter to withdraw this last, given the enormous resistance to it and your own commitment to reducing the amount of European regulation. It is becoming ever less likely that the Parliament will reach a compromise on the Services Directive. It would be good if next week you were to sound out the heads of government regarding their position on these matters and possibly to conclude that this Services Directive is already a dead duck, just like the constitution, and that it can make no contribution to a positive and constructive discussion of the European social model.

“The period of reflection following the rejection of the constitution must not simply focus on how such a treaty might still make progress. The real question should be ‘what do European citizens want from Europe?’ And from your own Commission's research it turns out that it is precisely the loss of national sovereignty and the pace of liberalisation which has alienated the public from the European social project. If, next week, you can persuade the rest of the European leaders of this then you will have taken a step in the right direction. It's time that things were tackled in Europe in a less frenetic fashion, and you have yourself already made a start on this. It's time now to be extremely reticent when it comes to controversial proposals, time to ease off. If the European elite carries on charging ahead like a high-speed train then the European public will be left behind at the last station.”

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