Dockers have been protesting against opening up the 25-nation European Union’s port services to greater competition.
The EU’s Port Package II programme proposes to end monopolies on cargo-handling by terminal companies.
The scene in Strasbourg was pandemonium outside the European Parliament, ahead of this Tuesday’s debate.
Socialists, communists and liberals are expected to reject the EU legislation.
The conservatives largely support it, and it is strongly backed by industry. A vote is scheduled for Wednesday.
Although the package (also known as PP II) was conceived by the former EU Commission, one protester said the anger was directed at the assembly of euro-deputies:
“The main reason is that the … democracy doesn’t work because this PP-II (EU Port Package II) if you call that … is the second time. And it shows that the European Parliament don’t listen to people and don’t have a true democracy. But otherwise they would never put it up once again like they did now. This is very upsetting for all the dock workers in all of Europe.”
‘PP II’ would permit shipping firms to hire independent contractors to load and unload vessels.
During the distrubances, three police-men were taken to hospital. More than a dozen rioters were arrested. An estimated 100 square metres of parliament building glass was smashed.
French socialist Henri Weber, speaking inside the chamber, said protest organizers had apologised for the damage done. He said the crowd was drawing attention to the danger the proposed directive represents for the dockers. Also for the quality and safety of their services. They were demanding the parliament reject the package. Weber called it ‘just as useless and harmful’ as it was two years ago, when the first package was rejected.
A strike at Antwerp began at five in the morning.
A spokesperson said ships could come in but could not be unloaded. In Brest, Barcelona, Piraeus… work at ports all over Europe has been disrupted. In the northern French port of Dunkirk, dockers condemned the proposed measures as “wild and absurd liberalisation”.