Conference on Services Directive yields encouraging results

12 January 2006

Conference on Services Directive yields encouraging results

SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard, who chaired the conference on the Services Directive held today at the European Parliament, welcomed guests from every single member states of the European Union, as well as Norway and Iceland. National parliamentarians, members of regional parliaments and other elected bodies, as well as representatives of social organisation and trade unions were included among the guests.

Kartika Liotard

In addition to members of the European Parliament United Left Group (GUE/NGL), of which the SP is the Dutch section, MEPs opposed to the directive were also present from the Greens-EFA and the social democratic Party of European Socialists (PES) Group. Describing this broad opposition as “encouraging”, Ms Liotard also noted that there was a consensus amongst opponents that it would not be enough to weaken the proposal through amendment. “We should obviously support amendments which do this,” she said, 'but in the end we must also vote against, whatever success these may enjoy.”

The country-of-origin principle is central to many of the directive's crucial annexes, which, as is the case with many EU laws, contain the measure's real meat. “The country-of-origin principle is central to the problem,” Ms Liotard said, “but it's also central to the resistance, because if we defeat it there'll be no more services directive.”

What form this resistance should take was also a subject of discussion. SP national parliamentarian Ewout Irrgang was amongst those proposing that it was important to organise debates amongst trade unionists, social organisations and the general population, as well as within national parliaments. It was vital to hold parliamentary debates with member state governments before they put their views to the EU Council of Ministers, Mr Irrgang said. Social movements and trade unions should in addition organise demonstrations at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and outside national parliaments when they are debating the issue. The matter should form an important topic of discussion at the coming European Social Forum in May.

Delegates gave numerous examples of the destructive consequences which the services directive would have. That it would provoke a race to the bottom in workers' conditions, social provision and environmental standards was the general view. The most encouraging news was that Norway, whose left coalition includes the Left Socialist Party – a good friend of the SP which would itself form part of the United Left Group had the Norwegian people not wisely voted against EU membership – will not be signing up to the directive's provisions. Although it is not a member of the EU, the country's participation in the European Economic Area would under normal circumstances mean that this measure would also apply to Norway, but the government has made it clear that this will not be the case on this occasion.

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