Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-07-10-Speech-4-155"

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"Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, President of the Commission, I would like to focus my speech on the twofold nature of this French Presidency, namely its unquestionable strong point and its all-too-obvious weak point. The reversal of France’s – and Italy’s – position has just enabled the Council to go beyond the obligations that it set itself by agreeing on a draft Directive permitting a 65-hour week. This consecrates Dickens as the new father of Europe! One last word, Mr President: this weekend, in front of your European guests – the President of Parliament, the President of the Commission and in front of 2 000 French right-wing business executives – you concluded your speech with words which were interpreted by the trade union movement in its entirety as an incitement – and a very unwise one – by stating that now, when there is a strike, the French people no longer even notice. The day after this lofty event, your Minister for Education explained that this was ‘a way of reassuring our European partners in the presence of the most eminent among them.’ Well then, if you must insult the trade unions to reassure European leaders, it is definitely time for change in Europe. Its strong point, in relation to the usual tenors of the Union, is that it does not say that Europe is doing well and that it should continue along these lines when increasing numbers of Europeans think that it is doing badly and that things should change. So far so good. But what then? This is where the problem lies. What conclusions do you draw, Mr President, from this apparent lucidity about the crisis of legitimacy that the Union is experiencing today, in particular its economic model and its operating mode? You say that you want to understand and that you respect the concerns that Europeans have about the Union, but you put pressure on the Irish people to go back on their decision, when they were only voicing, like the French and the Dutch, what millions of other Europeans are thinking. You criticise, rightly, the way the European Central Bank has been managing the euro from its ivory tower, but you never recommend re-examining the statutes which grant it all those powers and even assign it this task! You state, on the subject of immigration, that you want to ‘serve our values’, but you supported the shameful directive, condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, by all human rights organisations and by European churches, precisely because it violates essential human values. You ignore the social question – which, you say, should remain the sole responsibility of Member States – but you say nothing about the European Court of Justice, which delivers ruling upon ruling placing the different social models within the Union in competition with each other and basing itself on Articles 43 and 49 of the Treaty. You say that you did not like the image of the ‘Polish plumber’. Neither did I. This was an expression coined by the populist right and made popular on television screens by Mr Bolkestein. I say ‘Welcome to workers from all countries’ on an equal footing in all fields. This is precisely what current European law refuses. President-in-Office, may I remind you that, according to the Commission, in Lower Saxony, for the same work on the same construction site, a worker from another Member State can be paid half the minimum wage applicable to a German worker. This is what we do not want. Do you know what a man who cannot be accused of populism, namely John Monks, Secretary-General for the European Trade Union Confederation, thinks? He considers these decisions ‘considerably problematic’ because, he says, they decree ‘the primacy of economic freedoms over fundamental rights and the respect of labour law.’ What is your answer to that? You claim that you want to build a ‘Europe which protects’, but we do not hear you criticising all those structural measures which make the existence of Europeans precarious: the obligation to open public utility undertakings to competition; the pressures of the Stability Pact on wages and social spending and the number of ‘guidelines’ prepared by the Commission and adopted by the Council, which you apply in your own country with zeal. I could mention Guideline No 2: the reform of pension, social security and health care schemes. Guideline No 5: labour market flexibility. Guideline No 13: the removal of regulatory, commercial and other obstacles which hinder competition unduly. And I have not mentioned all of them."@en1

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