donderdag, maart 24, 2005

European social movements - 1; Bolkestein - Nil

Good news for once, of a kind: The Bolkestein directive ('Eeek! It sounds like Frankenstein!' screamed Mary-Lou. 'That's because it is indeed a monster of law,' answered Dr. McBride ominously while tugging on his pipe, squinting and peering off into the distance.) has been defeated. Sort of.

The EU services directive ostensibly aimed at 'opening up' the service sector in Europe has run up against the seemingly immoveable confidence of French trade unions and social movements.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the directive would have imposed the 'country of origin' principle to EU member state worker, environmental and other regulatory protections, meaning any company need only adhere to the legal restrictions of the country in which it was based, producing a race to the bottom as all European companies clambered over each other to establish headquarters in, say, Bulgaria.

Bolkestein produced a renewed wave of protest across Europe, in particular in France, but culminating in the massive 100,000-strong demonstration for 'a social Europe' in Brussels on the weekend.

The campaign against the directive has had a noticeable impact in France, and has more than rubbed off on people's attitude towards the proposed European Constitution. This week it was revealed that a slight majority in generally Europhiliac France are to vote against the ECT.

French president Jacques Chirac, petrified that a no vote in the country's upcoming referendum on the European Constitution will damage France's authority in Europe, has come out swinging against the directive and for Europe's 'social model'. EU leaders meeting here on Tuesday agreed to a compromise on the directive.

While the directive is not exactly completely deadfully dead yet, and will undoubtedly rematerialise in some other guise like a neo-liberal TARDIS, the privateers of Europe are skittish and disoriented, having been surprised by the ferocity of the anti-Bolkestein campaign.

Interestingly, the Eurocrat who remains most bullish on the services directive is the president of Hartlepool United FC, Peter Mandelson, of the UK, where there is effectively no campaign for a social Europe at all…

Welcome Mr. Peter.

[This is about the time that a troop of fifty patchouli-drenched British anarchists dressed up in hand-knitted hemp Frankenstein costumes take a ferry across La Manche and descend on Commissioner Mandy's offices here in BXL. Oh waaaait - there's an idea. You can find Mr. Peter at: 200 rue de la Loi, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium. His phone number is: +32-2-298 56 15 and his telefacsimile machine number is: +32-2-299 60 87]


Not terribly impressed with Hot Hot Heat's new single, Goodnight, Goodnight. If this is the lead single, it doesn't bode well for the new album.

So check out Oh Yeah, by the Subways, instead.