European Parliament rejects Ports Services Directive

18 January 2006

European Parliament rejects Ports Services Directive

The European Parliament has rejected the controversial Port Services Directive by a large majority. Opposition to the motion to reject was confined to a section of the centre-right Christian Democrats of the European People's Party (EPP). SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer declared himself to be “delighted” by the outcome, pointing out that “For the second time the EP has voted to oppose this bizarre liberalisation measure. I hope that the European Commission has now understood this message.”

“The high turn-out during Monday's demonstration underlined once again the failure of the European Commission to impose its will on dockers and their unions. That the Port Services Directive is now defeated is largely down to those unions,” Mr Meijer said.

In a tactic which the PPE uses whenever it finds itself divided, the Christian Democrats sought to prevent the proposed directive from being brought to a vote, on the grounds that “the Parliament is not ready for it,” as a spokesman for the group put it. Citing “Monday's much too emotionally-charged demonstration,” he claimed that the debate had also become too emotional to allow a rational judgement to be arrived at. The great majority of Euro-MPs disagreed, however, and the PPE motion to defer was voted down.

Right up to the last minute it was becoming ever clearer that the directive was provoking enormous divisions within the various political groups. As Erik Meijer noted, “Even amongst those who had originally been supporters, including the VVD (right-wing liberals) en CDA (Christian Democrats), this was the case. Evidently it's generally considered that there's nothing to be gained from the proposed liberalisation of port services. ”

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot, predictably enough, reacted with disappointment and stated that new legislative proposals were in prospect. “If only it doesn't enter his head to propose this liberalisation of dock work for a third time!” Meijer said. “The patience of trade unions and also of the SP and other left parties in the Parliament has its limits.”

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