The SP in Europe

12 December 2008

The SP in Europe

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

The 40-hour standard working week in the Netherlands is under pressure. The EU Council of Ministers wants to make it possible to work a longer week of sixty, sixty-five or even seventy hours. The maximum working week is currently defined under EU law as forty-eight hours. Trade unions, along with the SP, argue that any lengthening of this maximum would undermine the objective of a Social Europe. A debate will be held on Monday, 15th December and the following afternoon will see a mass trade union demonstration in Strasbourg, a demonstration in which SP Euro-MPs Kartika Liotard and Erik Meijer will take part. The organisers, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), represent the interests of sixty million workers. Buses will be travelling to Strasbourg from every corner of the Netherlands. Despite the proposal having already been rejected once, the European Parliament must vote again on the measure on 17th December. "It's precisely at this time, when the economy is under pressure, that the EU should be offering protection to workers in respect of health and safety and working conditions," says Erik Meijer. Kartika Liotard adds that "this also means that the last thing Europe should be doing is relaxing rules on working time."

European Works Councils

European Works Councils have been established in numerous EU-based corporations. Many such councils, however, are not functioning properly, partly as a result of a lack of European legislation. For this reason, since 2001 the European Parliament has been calling for a review. 'The proposals from British Tory Philip Bushill-Matthews go only part of the distance in meeting these calls," says SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer. "His proposals are especially inadequate when it comes to the right to information and consultation in cases of reorganisation and restructuring. In addition, hardly any comeback is foreseen for firms which don't respect the law." Meijer's view is that workers should have the right to halt decision-making process if they are not kept informed or not properly consulted. The SP will abstain in the vote and ask the European Commission to come forward with a thorough revision based on the European Parliament opinion of 2001.

Promoting the arms trade

It should be easier to trade in defence products, according to a report by... a Green MEP: she wants to see certification, certainty of supply for EU member states, more competition and less bothersome administrative red-tape: "What sticks in the throat is the way in which the European arms trade is presented in so neutral a fashion," says SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer. "I miss any moral element. The European Parliament is playing along with the weapons traders." German Green Rapporteur Heide Rühle describes her proposal as "a first step to imposing internal market rules on a sector which has until now come under the exclusive competence of the member states." Erik Meijer comments that "For us this extension of EU powers is undesirable. There are a few positive aspects of Rühle's report: she is opposed to the export of arms to conflict zones. But only if the country of origin does not allow it." Countries which break export embargoes will be committing a criminal offence. "But will we ever see defence ministers and arms manufacturers ending up in an EU prison cell?"

Parking fines abroad

Drivers are inclined to go faster when abroad than they do in their own countries, but fines for breaking speed limits and parking regulations are seldom collected. "This is bad for road safety and for the environment and leads to the feeling that when you're driving abroad you can ignore the law," says Erik Meijer, SP Euro-MP and transport specialist. "That's why we support the proposal to make it easier to collect such fines." The proposal was postponed from the November Strasbourg session agenda as a result of a number of legal difficulties raised by several member states.

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