Dead Men Left

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bolkestein defeated (for the time being)

Between this and Blair's pensions climbdown, it's turning out to be a good week for gumming up neoliberalism. Lenin (yet again) has the goods:

Named after Frits Bolkestein, the former EU internal market commissioner who introduced the idea in January 2004, the law enables the company you work for to transfer its headquarters to a country in which legal protection for workers is particularly weak, and you would suddenly find that you no longer have the benefit of protections won by decades of trade union and social struggle in your own country. The right to strike, pay negotiations, pensions - forget all that. Bolkestein has suggested that the law is about harmonising rules in the EU. Effectively what it does is level down, so that the lowest common denominator in terms of regulation prevails. Unsurprisingly, our oleaginous Prime Minister, after striving to weaken protection for British workers on his last Euro-adventure, is in the vanguard of this movement. Peter Mandelson, that paragon of self-effacing asceticism, has accused opponents of the directing of wanting to lead "a cosy life".

The original, starry-eyed vision was to chomp away decisively at all those tedious rights and protective laws workers across Europe get so het up about. Facing massive public opposition, France, along with Germany and Sweden, have cajoled their EU partners into redrafting the directive somewhat. The new, watered-down Bolkestein will now "preserve the European social model". It's not quite time to celebrate, however. Admist the grinding and gnashing of frustrated free-market molars, dire warnings are still being given:

The directive will not be withdrawn. Only the Commission could do this. The European Council does not have the right to pass injunctions of this type to the European Commission. If the directive were withdrawn, we would give the impression that the opening of services had vanished from the European agenda. It must remain on the European agenda because the Lisbon Strategy, which speaks of growth, employment and competitiveness, requires us to open the services market.

La lotta continua (he says, hoping to demonstrate his internationalism). Apostate Windbag posted a rant a week ago about the perceived inadequacy of the UK left when dealing with Europe; I tended to agree with him, whilst Wat Tyler's Ghost took the view that:

Of course the proposed neo-liberal European Constitution links many of them - but then so does our economic system which is why we are trying to overthrow it and ‘replace it with something nicer.’ Yet nobody with a brain suggests a general campaign against capitalism at this moment in time?

And anyway do constitutions make a lot of difference. Many of the worst dictatorships have had pretty good constitutions.

...which, to be blunt, is precisely the kind of attitude we need to work against. Our own New Labour government is leading the neoliberal charge across Europe. We, on the UK left, are failing workers across the continent if we are allowing Blair to continue unhindered.