Following clashes between dock workers and police, the European Commission’s controversial Port Services Directive has been defeated by the European Parliament.
The lawmakers voted by 532 to 120, with 25 abstentions, to kill the proposals outright. It was the second time the parliament has rejected the reform. It voted down a similar bill in 2003.
EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot vowed to return with a broader proposal, he hoped within a year. He was disappointed the bill was rejected out of hand and that there was no vote on an amended text, which he said would have eased some of the concerns of port workers.
In the opinion of Belgian analyst Michael Dooms, the whole exercise may have been something of a time-waster anyway. HE says it could have been more thorough:
“They have never made very profound economic analyses on what would be the effect of more liberalisation in the port sector. As we know and data show, European ports are in fact very efficient. So there is no need, real economic justification, for a new legislation on new port services.”
One of the protest organisers, the secretary-general of the International Transport Worker’s Federation Eduardo Chagas, also cast doubt on the failed attempt:
“When youre talking about competition in a global world, you should understand you won’t unload your cargo in China instead of Europe when it has to come to Europe anyway.”
The draft bill had proposed opening cargo handling to competition in ports. This was aimed at loosening the grip of existing monopolies. The Commission says that ninety per cent of the EU’s external trade goes through sea ports, and that they are in need of investment, which liberalisation is supposed to encourage.