Marching to the European Parliament to protest against one of the EU’s most controversial plans, several thousand French and German demonstrators gathered in Strasbourg yesterday to denounce the Bolkestein directive. On Tuesday the parliament debates the measure that would throw open the EU’s 25 national markets to cross-border competition in services.
Marie-George Buffet, national secretary of France’s Communist Party, said:“We hope they heed the aspirations of the people of the EU who don’t want this free-market Europe any more. They want a Europe with a social harmony, one that’s a source of progress (for everyone). Currently we’re pitting workers in the EU against each other.” MEPs are scheduled to take a decision on the directive next Thursday. One protestor said he hoped it would be withdrawn, adding he hoped previous agreements like the Treaty of Nice would be abandoned. The original directive was blamed for fuelling the “No” vote in the French referendum last year on the EU Constitution. Trade unions claimed it would allow cheaper services from the newer EU members to undercut peers in western Europe. One of Saturday’s largest demonstrations was in Berlin where German union boss Michael Sommer joined about 35,000 anti-globalisation protesters. Among the slogans was “Europe yes- social dumping no”. A compromise between the main groups in the European Parliament, that limits the scope of the directive, means the legislation is likely to be approved.