Wed Oct 5th, 2005 at 08:18:56 AM EST
Between the 24th-27th this month, the European Parliament will debate the amended version of the Draft Directive [pdf!] on EU-wide services liberalisation, commonly named (for its drafter1) the Bolkestein Directive.
Since I expect some divergent views about it here on ET, I explain my opposition below the fold, here I will just say:
- Whatever your opinion, I encourage you to write it to your MEP of choice.
- Input about the amendments would be welcome - from what little I read, no significant changes.
- An organised platform for opponents is the StopBolkestein petition, which I signed - their arguments have faults (see below), but they keep you updated of what happens.
- Many (Western) opponents and proponents (everywhere) have cast the issue as the rich West keeping the poor East out, my approach below the fold is different.
- Frits Bolkestein was the previous Internal Market Commissioner, a Dutch market-liberal. Also famous for drafting that other red-flag Draft Directive, the one on software patents; and for phony Islamophobia.↑
What follows is an edited English version of what I wrote - I thus far wrote to two MEPs, a Socialist and a Liberal from my country, and plan to write to two fraction leaders and a Left MEP (once I did the German and French translations too...)
My opposition is not to a common market for services in general - it is to (common) marketising specific sectors of basic 'services', and the 'how' of doing it for the rest. I put them in three points.
Private schools, especially if they are given the freedom to make their own curriculum [worst-case example from Britain] get into the scope of the directive. But this is inspired by the economics view of education, that is, education as only the training of future skilled workers. With appropiate protections for poorer regions or communities, a supply-demand solution for this may2 appear sensible. The education of culture (global, European, national, minority) may not need comprehensive standards.
However, in a democracy, it would be important for voters, all voters to know the world and society in general to a sufficiently high level to make qualified decisions. Be them referendums, parliamentary votes - or daily decisions as consumers buying some product. For this, education needs to be comprehensive and curriculum needs to have standards, if not at EU or global level, at least at country or state level. Individual countries' marketisation of education would/does erode that, creating an EU-wide single market between such countries would make the destruction permanent.
The fear of opponents in the West (here too) is social dumping. However, hiring of doctors and nurses in the West in large numbers would be a problem for the poorer new EU members, too: a shortage of medical staff - and, one can suspect, a decrease of the average competency of staff.
This problem, doctors moving where they are better paid and some regions having worse healthcare, already exists at country level. Even the national healthcare privatisation plans I'm aware of [and reject] call for some State role in mitigating it. However, the problem would be of much higher magnitude at EU level, and completely without instruments to compensate it.
Third and last: labor rights and oversight.
More superficial opponents of Bolkestein ignore that for foreign workers too, the Draft Directive grants the workers' rights of the host country; and that its scope is only services and countries already liberalised nationally. But, in my opinion these defenses are worth little:
- As far as I know, there is no word about renationalisation - marketisation is a one-way street.
- The employer can always exert indirect pressure on the employee - if residing in a different country, thus he can undermine labor rights.
- Hence the most alarming point in the Draft Directive, the one nebulously entrusting the authorities of the employer's country of registration with oversight, remains very much on-topic: since conducting checks in another country has its practical problems, this prescription leads at least to lapses, at most a complete loss of overseeing the activities of service companies.
- A common market and different national labor rights means a competition between countries - a competition leading to the lowest common denominator.
- Hence my most general argument: no common market before common, and high-level, labor rights.
- May, meaning: even this is debatable, but I won't argue about it here.↑