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The European Parliament is at it again

by Migeru Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 05:17:55 AM EST

If the EU does no wrong, it is usually because of the European Parliament.

Spanish newspaper El Pais carried the following editorial yesterday

La Europa peor · ELPAÍS.comThe worse Europe - ElPais.com
La directiva del permiso único, de pasar el trámite parlamentario, sería aprobada en el próximo Consejo de Ministros de Justicia e Interior, no en el de Empleo y Asuntos Sociales. La instancia elegida es significativa del tipo de aproximación por el que ha optado la Unión a la hora de regular los derechos de los trabajadores extranjeros. Esta no es la Europa que deseaban los líderes que concibieron e impulsaron hace medio siglo su integración, ni tampoco la que alimentó las esperanzas de sus ciudadanos. Directivas como la del permiso único, o como la del retorno, son criaturas de una Europa diferente. No más integrada, sino peor.The single permit directive, had it passed Parliament, would have been approved at the next Council of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs, not Employment and Social Affairs. The chosen instance signifies the approach chosen by the Union to regulate the rights of foreign workers. This is not the Europe wished by the leaders that conceived and pushed its integration half a century ago, nor that which fed the hopes of its citizens. Directives such as the single permit, or the return directive, are creatures of a different Europe. No more integrated, but worse.

Below the fold, some additional background and details of the parliamentary debate.

European Parliament press releases: No agreement on legislation on a single permit to live and work in the EU

After a series of amendments to the legislation had been adopted, a majority of MEPs decided they could no longer vote for the end result, for various reasons.  The amended proposal was rejected (306 in favour, 350 against and 25 abstentions). The draft legislation will therefore be sent back to the Civil Liberties and the Employment committees,

The directive - which complements the so-called "blue card" for highly-skilled immigrants - is designed to facilitate legal immigration where it meets the needs of the European labour market. The aim is to simplify administrative requirements for third-country nationals by enabling them to obtain work and residence permits via a single procedure at a "one-stop shop" and to grant a common set of rights to immigrants legally residing and working in the EU

The key points of discussion among political groups were the scope of the legislation, equal treatment of third country nationals and EU citizens and whether Member States should be enabled to issue or require other documents, in addition to the permit.

The issue trumpeted by the European Social Democrats was that the new directive, while simplifying the legislation on immigration by creating a single work permit valid in the whole EU (I suppose, analogous in intention to the Schengen Visa) did so by harmonizing from below, in fact creating a system in which non-EU workers, once authorised to work, are subject to different regulations from EU workers. This essentially institutionalizes social dumping in the EU-wide labour market, and exposes non-EU workers to exploitative conditions compared to their EU counterparts.

The European Trade Union Confederation put it this way: Resolution on equal treatment and non discrimination for migrant workers

Directive establishing a single request procedure with a view to the issue of a single permit authorising nationals from third countries to live and work on the territory of a Member State and establishing a common floor of rights for third-country workers living legally in a Member State

The ETUC is aware of the efforts being made by the EU to devise a global immigration policy that is fair and rights-based. However, the draft directive takes only partly account of our demand to allow all European Union citizens and third-country nationals living legally in the EU, including refugees, to have full access to the EU employment market (Art. 3.1). The ETUC believes that some aspects of this proposal are somewhat problematic given the lack of evaluation of the potential impact that some measures might have on the employment market, industrial relations and social cohesion, and above all the exclusion of certain groups from the general rights framework, specifically posted workers, physical persons in connection with commercial and investment activities, seasonal workers, asylum seekers and persons under subsidiary protection. To break the principle of equal treatment, curb the rights and not establish any guarantees to protect working conditions and social conditions for migrant and local workers could lead to a complicated situation in our societies. Yet more than that, it continues to open the gates to the dangerous path of the fragmentation of the labour market, and in a sense, the acceptance of social dumping in industrial relations. We are well aware of the progress of the situation regarding the debates on the proposed directive at both European Parliament and Council levels, but in light of the great importance that the ETUC attaches to this proposal, we want to maintain in particular the proposals by the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, in the sense of including all workers, without exception, in Chapter III -The right to equality of treatment. We see it as fundamental that the directive should include all workers and ensure equal treatment and non-discrimination in employment and social standards in the place where the activity is carried out. To this end, the ETUC will be getting back in toall the institutional players, and launching a campaign of information and debate within society, to get this important question being discussed right across the trade union movement, in political circles and in public opinion in general.

The above-linked release from the European Parliament Press Service summarizes the positions of the speakers for the various European Parliamentary Groups

Before the vote, rapporteur Mathieu said "this legislation will allow a better management of migration flows. It aims at erasing the differences between the Member States in terms of work and residence procedures and access to rights for third country nationals working legally in the EU."

Equality of treatment is the key for any economic immigration policy. This directive is not sufficient because it excludes people who need protection such as short term or seasonal workers", argued Employment Committee rapporteur Alejandro Cercas (S&D, ES). Vijila Blinkevičiūtė (S&D, LT), agreed that "we cannot set up a category of second rank workers in the EU".

Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL), replied that those excluded from this directive "have their rights described in other EU directives".

For the Liberals, Sophie In't Veld (ALDE, NL), said that her group wanted to "arrive at a first reading agreement. How much progress have we made for a common immigration policy since the Tampere Council?", she asked. She also said that the ALDE would vote against any final result that enabled Member States to require additional documents.

Jean Lambert (Greens/ EFA, UK), said that her group "does not want to see the rights of third-country nationals constrained and restrained". Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL, FR), stated that "this law would create competition between EU workers and third-country nationals and between different categories of migrants. It would create different status and categories of workers".

"The good aspect is the simplification of procedures. However, we should first and help our citizens to get jobs", said Mara Bizotto (EFD, IT). "My group is against any EU common immigration policy. A single procedure makes it easier for the people to come into the EU", said Daniël Van der Stoep (NI, NL). 

The rapporteur was from our friends in the EPP.

El Pais ran an interview with the Spanish Socialist MEP Alejandro Cercas the day before the vote, headlined with the quote "We're looking at a new kind of modern slavery". This was alongside the following background article

La UE propone un marco legal que discrimina a trabajadores inmigrantes · ELPAÍS.comThe EU proposes a legal framework discriminating against immigrant workers - ElPais.com
En junio de 2008, la UE aprobó la directiva de retorno para luchar contra la llamada "inmigración ilegal", que dio un plazo de entre siete y 30 días para el retorno voluntario de los sin papeles y autorizaba a la detención de inmigrantes indocumentados hasta 18 meses. La dureza de las medidas se justificó entonces con el anuncio de una futura legislación para la inmigración legal para darle un trato justo.In June 2008, the EU approved the return directive to fight against so-called "illegal immigration", giving between 7 and 30 days for the voluntary return of undocumented migrants and authorising their detention for 18 months. The harshness of the measures was justified by announcing future legislation on legal migration to give it a fair treatment.
La realidad es que la propuesta, que pretende fijar un marco de derechos uniforme para estos inmigrantes, está llena de exclusiones y derogaciones. Perjudica, por ejemplo, a los trabajadores temporales, a los desplazados, a los trasladados por empresas de terceros países, a los de empresas prestadoras de servicios mediante contrato y a determinados puestos de aprendices.The reality is that the proposal, intending to fix a uniform framework of rights for these immigrants, is full of exclusions and derogations. It damages, for instance, temporary workers, displaced workers, those moved by firms into third countries, those of firms providing services by contract, and certain apprentive posts.

The Bolkestein directive by other means, and more.

Las derogaciones más significativas son las referidas a la exportación de pensiones, el reconocimiento de prestaciones familiares, el derecho a la vivienda, a la formación y a la educación permanente. Un ejemplo: un emigrante turco o marroquí que haya trabajado en Alemania, no podrá recibir su pensión en su país de origen si decide retirarse allí. Deberá permanecer en el país donde haya trabajado, a no ser que la legislación de este último se lo permita.The most significant derogations affect the exportation of pensions, the recognition of family entitlements, and the rights to housing or permanent education. An example: a Moroccan or Turkish migrant having worked in Germany will not be able to receive their pension in their country of origin is they want to retire there. They must remain in the country where they worked unless the latter's law allows it.

As the El Pais editorial says, this is not the Europe we signed up for. About time we did something about it, because there's only so many times you can stop the same asinine legislation (first Bolkestein, now this), and because if you're busy stopping asinine legislation it means it's the asses, not you, busy writing the legislation.

Hey, look, I can also regurgitate press releases. Can I call myself a journalist now?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 05:18:40 AM EST
Of course not, too many consecutive original words.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 05:26:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Basic news reporting is easy: WWWWH. The bit that is more difficult to learn is C for Context, and P for Poking your nose in deeper.

P is discouraged by editors if it impinges on the advertisers or threatens continuing off-the-record access.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 10:06:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PN for Poking your Nose?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 10:28:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That too.

Worthwhile communication is usually about useful insights. PNing is an adjustment of those insights. What we mostly argue about is how fine a grain do we PN before the insight is lost in the collateral damage of perception.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 10:56:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See also An EU 'Blue Card' for high-skilled immigrants? | EurActiv
In December 2005, the Commission issued a Policy Plan on Legal Migration which defined a road-map for the Hague Programme. The Policy Plan listed a series of measures to be adopted until 2009, including a horizontal directive introducing a single permit and a single procedure for migrants seeking to work in the EU. It also included four sectoral initiatives: 
  1. A proposal for a directive on the conditions of entry and residence of highly skilled workers; 
  2. A proposal for a directive on the conditions of entry and residence of seasonal workers; 
  3. A proposal for a directive on the conditions of entry and residence of remunerated trainees. 
  4. A proposal for a directive on the procedures regulating entry and residence of Intra-Corporate Transferees (ICT); 

The first proposal was presented by the European Commission in autumn 2007, during a High Level Conference on Legal Immigration organised by the Portuguese Presidency. The second and third will be submitted in the autumn of 2008, and the fourth in the course of 2009. 

Notice how this was also considered by the Commission to fall under Justice and Home Affairs, not under Employment and Social Affairs
The Blue Card proposal is not expected to go down easily with some member states; most prominently Germany and Austria. Franz Müntefering, then German employment minister, attacked the proposal quite fiercely, insisting that employment ministers must be involved: "This is no matter to be casually decided by home affairs ministers - and also not by the commissioner in charge of home affairs. This is not a matter for the Commission at all. It must be the responsibility of national parliaments and governments."
The Blue Card directive, which was a mess [like to EP press summary], did pass the European Parliament in 2008.

Divided Parliament approves EU Blue Card system | EurActiv

The report was carried by a clear majority of 388 to 56, thanks to a pact between the Parliament's "big two", the Socialist PES and centre-right EPP parties. However, the large number of abstentions (124), led by the European Liberals and Greens, indicated that significant divisions persist. 

Speaking to EurActiv, Dutch MEP Jeanine Hennis Plasschaert, Liberal spokesperson on immigration, said the EPP's report lacked focus and would lead to "all kinds of restrictions and bureaucracy, rather than opening the doors to high-skilled workers". 

The European Commission proposal was already very modest, she argued, and was watered down further by the EPP-PES pact, which she claimed was overly influenced by the "very muddled and emotional immigration debate going on in Europe today". 


The Greens, like the Liberals, described the proposal as "half-hearted," lamenting the report's "lukewarm welcome" afforded to high-skilled workers. They felt the text added a "host of restrictions on an already limited scheme". 

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 08:40:41 AM EST
From a discussion in another diary...


The Bolkestein (services) directive was not hard-wired into either the treaties or the Constitution. The directive was pushed because of the dominant neoliberal sentiment at the time among national governments and within the Commission (and sadly we haven't made much progress since then on those fronts...). Its neoliberal elements were ultimately defeated by a pan-European protest led by the labour movements and an effective PES rapporteur in the European Parliament.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 08:52:29 AM EST
With conservatives and neo-libs in the majority in the EP it would seem that the ETUC should be well grounded so as to prepare for coming lightning strikes.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 04:47:23 PM EST

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