MEPs, mainly the Socialist fraction, have responded angrily to the Commission’s rejection of the EP report on challenges to collective agreements in the EU. The MEPs had requested legislative action as a response to a number of recent rulings by the European Court of Justice, seen to threaten to system of collective agreements and the rights of trade unions to protect workers from other member countries when working in another country. (For a summary of those cases see link list at the site of the European Trade Union Conference.)
This issue has taken on a great significance in Sweden since one of the first cases related to an Latvian firm working in Sweden (“The Laval case or the Vaxholm case.”). The Parliament rapporteur on the issue was Swedish MEP Jan Andersson, chairman of the Employment Committee.
In a press release from PSE one of the group’s vice presidents is quoted as saying “This will be a crucial issue when electing a new Commission and its President…..We urge the Commission to rethink its position“. Labour MEP Stephen Hughes says: “The people of Europe will not back a European Union that fails to take their concerns seriously. We want assurances that the Commission will act.” And Mr. Andersson confirms: “The fact that the Commission does not want to act to ensure equal treatment and the right for trade unions to take industrial action to protect this principle is extraordinary. If the Commission fails to act, it has failed its citizens. Action is urgently needed.”
With the parliamentary election coming up and ratification issues still outstanding, national political parties and opinion leaders basically have two options. The one which they are most likely to take is of course to attack the “democracy deficiency” of the EU, the “Brussels Bureaucracy” and generally the bad will and intentions of a basically conservative Commission. In this way they may perhaps bring on board some eurosceptic and europhobic voters. The other way would be for national political parties put these issues high on their agenda for the elections and promise the voters that their representatives, if elected, would pressure the issue for instance by forcing the proposed new Commission President to take a stance as a condition for being confirmed and to pressure the proposed commissioners on the issue in the parliamentary hearings. This would open not only a possibility to achieve the desired decisions but also show that democracy works at the European level. And it might increase interest and participation at the national level.
The wording of Mr. Hughes seem ominous: “The people of Europe will not back a European Union that fails to take their concerns seriously.” So is his idea that the best thing is to sit back and watch “The European Union” to see if it is going to meet the concerns of the people and if not go vote for the UKIP? Would it not make sense to try to actively influence the case through political work, especially at this favorable moment with elections coming up and a new Commission to be appointed? And Mr. Andersson:”Action is urgently needed.” Well, the Commission seems to have made it clear that there will be no action. So what is next. More grinding of teeth?
Those who are unhappy with the present situation and decision should make every effort to ensure that their views are heard at home and make their best to ensure that their representatives in the Council and in the Parliament share their opinion. They may not succeed but that’s how democracy works. Sitting back in anger is no solution.