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Return of the Prince

10.25.2005

To observers over here, it seemed that Charlie McCreevy failed to make the kind of impact on Europe that he had on us here. Yet fear not, little ones, for the prince is returning to the fray. Raising his head from the political tomb that is the EU Commission, he landed in Sweden seeming to take a swipe at their social bargaining model.
Im sure we recall his initial foray into Euro-politics trying to handle his inheritence of the Bolkestein Directive, otherwise known as the "Frankenstein" directive. That piece of internal marketry got cast aside to political expediency as the EU Constitution debate ran aground. The desire to impose market structures uniformally across the EU has not left the old warhorse, and he seems to be sharpening that blade of his to return to the old party of upsetting all and sundry.
The EU Observer reports that on Tuesday that Charlie told the EU "parliamentarians he found it 'extraordinary' that he had to justify his statements in support of freedom to provide services".
Many thought the threat of an internal market in service provision had been cast aside to the pressing need to make EU relevant and steer some form of tidy-up Treaty through the path where the Constitution once lay. Not so, Chaz doesnt do political niceties, and on a recent visit to Sweden, made claims of support for a Latvian company refusing to adopt Swedish wage partnership agreements.
Many like De Rossa above, cited the old incarnation of the directive as a major threat to the European social model, far greater than anything posed by the (now ex-) constitution. To most on the left, it is an instinctive opposition that occurs, neo-liberal policies are to be seen off at all costs.
Yet Charlie has been here before, precisely why he was packed-off chosen to go to Brussels. His willingness to challenge those who would defy his mix of neo-liberalism and political pragmatism is well documented.
What seems to be at the heart of the issue is the legality, or correctness, of allowing workers from one EU country to work under the conditions local to that State and not fall under the provisions of the State in which they are working. A little like saying that the Gama workers here are exempt from our wage and working rules and only subject to Turkish laws and standards. Of course the law only applies to those Companies and States within the EU.
So Charlie looks set to draw up battle lines and adopt the position which will cause maximum discomfort to governments seeking to paint the EU as an important and secure institution. Still, we did actually sign up to all this internal market business a long time ago, its just the EU never really wanted to introduce them.
EU Politix has an equally good account of the standoff thus far, here. Some of the reaction has been good too. Proof positive that the EU does bluster like true pros.

At the heart of this dilemma it seems to me is the schizophrenic nature of the EU and the dichotomy of its status over the state. The EU was at once seen as the guardian of a way of life (the European Social Model) and the promoter of business and trade among the west of the continent. However more prevelant divisions have emerged where the EU has gone through bouts of major ideological fervour on both sides of its personality. Currently the commission is charged up with reform minded ideals and taking the EU further along is own stated path of increased market harmonisation.
The other teaser is the manner in which the EU seems to be able to impose its will on a government and by extension on a population. It looks like the working of the EU is set to become harder as long as the EU pushes policy at odds with the will of a state's electorate.
Its a game of wait and see to know how far Charlie is willing to run with this ball, it is certain though that the farther he travels, the tougher it will get. Still thats the way the Prince likes it.
RR

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