Bolkestein dead – perhaps
WORKERS, MAR 2006 ISSUE
In February over 65,000 trade unionists took to the streets to protest in Berlin and Strasbourg, as MEPs debated the hated Directive on Services. The Bolkestein Directive attracted the most attention, as its implemen-tation would have devastated pay, standards, qualifications and working conditions through-out Europe. MEPs had to wrestle with 404 amendments to this directive (out of an original 1,500!). After a two-year struggle, however, on 16 February Bolkestein was finally laid to rest.
Or was it? The EU Commission has a habit of regularly ignoring the people with whom it pretends to consult. (The EU Constitution is a case in point). While workers celebrate success in closing off key industries such as health, social housing, and social services to the depredations of capitalism, the European Commission hails the result as 'opening up' markets to competition.
Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? In fact, they have suffered a setback. With its heart ripped out the Services Directive now falls far short of the original draft. Paul Stevenson of Open Europe said, "Protectionist MEPs have gutted the Directive".
Capitalist aspirations were soon bolstered, though, by Internal Market Commissioner Charles McCreevy's statement in the immediate aftermath: "The Commission which produced the 'country of origin' principle, which was removed from the final text of the directive, will clearly return to it as a matter of course".
Some MEPs, demoralised by the rejection of the Constitution, had taken pathetic comfort from the temporary focus on the European Parliament. They tried to say it was proof that their parliament mattered. But what really matters is what workers do once they get back home to their unions.