European trade unionists have marched in their thousands through Strasbourg in protest at plans to liberalise Europe’s services sector. The so-called Bolkestein Directive will open up the market to cross-border competition. But some workers and politicians fear it will cause a fall in standards as cost-cutting undermines regulation. Monica Frassoni, co-President of the parliamentary Greens, sees the measure has having far-reaching social implications which are not in the spirit of Europe.
But others such as Anne-Marie Perret, President of the European Public Services Federation, says something has to be done to improve things: “As far as we are concerned, one of the positive things in a better Europe and in bringing Europe closer to the people is that we try to make things more transparent. But we must try to achieve a framework of directives or texts which are accessible and bring improvements both to the workers and the consumers.”
While the issue has raised intense opposition, the march through the French city was largely good-natured. Trade unionists from all over Europe including some of the newest member states gathered within earshot of the European Parliament as it began its debate.