The SP in Europe

17 October 2008

The SP in Europe

Current European issues and the SP's approach – Important items on next week's European Parliament Plenary Agenda

Collective Labour Agreement rights undermined:
"On Tuesday 21st October in Strasbourg it will be clear whether you can allow fundamental human rights to be driven out by economic freedoms." So says SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer in reaction to a report on collective agreements in the EU. In four recent cases the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has interpreted the rules to the detriment of social protection for workers and in favour of what is known as the 'internal market'. In the cases known as Ruffert, Laval, Viking en Luxembourg, Meijer explains, "the Court repeatedly attached more value to the free movement of goods, capital, labour and services than to the fundamental right of workers to negotiate or to conduct collective actions, or to the observance of national collective labour agreements." In this last, Meijer was referring to the system prevailing in the Netherlands and most other western European countries. The 'Collective Labour Agreement', known in the Netherlands by its Dutch acronym CAO, fixes the going rate per trade and per sector for most workers at all levels. The CAO is agreed annually or biennially between representatives of employers and workers and becomes legally binding for any participating employer, who may depart from it only to the advantage of his or her employees. "This debate must make it clear whose side the European Parliament is on," says Meijer. "Unfortunately, some optimists, mostly social democrats, hope that the Lisbon Treaty – in other words the already-rejected EU Constitution – will solve this problem for us. We don't agree."

Ombudsman's Report:
The European Ombudsman last year established 641 enquiries, most of them concerning the European Commission. The lack of transparency, exemplified by the refusal to supply information, is one of the major reasons for mismanagement. Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros made criticisms of the Commission in 2005 over its approach to openness which – contrary to the rules – it did not initially answer publicly. This followed a complaint from the British pressure group Statewatch. "I support the idea that citizens should receive more rapid and more complete answers to questions, complaints and enquiries," says SP Euro-MP and Civil Liberties Committee member Kartika Liotard. "It's too stupid for words that we have to discuss this matter in Parliament on Thursday. I am also in complete agreement that the term 'administrative mismanagement' should include cases of unacceptable delay, carelessness and inaccuracy in the fulfilment of one's duties, lack of transparency and any other examples of breaches of the principles of proper management."

Association and Stabilisation Agreement for Bosnia-Herzegovina:
The EU has long played the boss's role in Bosnia. The argument in favour of this is that if it did not do so, chaos would descend. Three different peoples live there and they do not agree on how the country should be governed. Many would rather accede to one of the neighbouring countries, Serbia or Croatia. The EU representation, supported by an EU armed force, has the power in Sarajevo to sack politicians and suspend laws. And when it comes to trade treaties and EU subsidies the country is forced to toe the line. Now that a number of the EU's conditions have been met, the Union is concluding an 'Association and Stabilisation Agreement' with this divided country. "The EU must get out of Bosnia as soon as possible," says Erik Meijer, SP Euro-MP and member of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with south-east Europe. "No soldiers, no administrators. The people there must have the chance to decide for themselves how they want to be governed. I am putting a proposal in the Parliament that the EU should no longer stand in the way of the Serbs, Croats and Bosnians forming a federation of peoples with equal rights. If that succeeds, there will be no argument in favour of a continued EU presence."

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