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Wednesday, 13 April 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

24. Discrimination against workers and companies from the new Member States in the EU internal market

  President. The next item is the oral question to the Commission on discrimination against workers and companies from the new Member States in the EU internal market by Mr Protasiewicz and others, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats (B6-0173/2005).


  Protasiewicz (PPE-DE). (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, in less than three weeks’ time it will be a year since the enlargement of the European Union. For millions of citizens of Central Europe, enlargement meant the fulfilment of dreams about a common Europe governed by fair principles and with equal opportunities for all.

In preparation for enlargement the new countries opened their markets wide, allowing in a flow of Western companies, goods, services and workers. This often took place against a background of heated internal debate and despite strong protests by many groups, mainly those representing workers. The latter feared the loss of their jobs and argued strongly that national markets should be protected from unfair Western competition. Nonetheless, we felt that above all membership of the European Union meant being part of the common market in which freedom to undertake economic activity anywhere on the territory of the Union is guaranteed. At the same time, we were convinced that the European treaties laid down fair rules for all actors, regardless of their country of origin. Unfortunately, over the last 11 months there have been numerous instances of discrimination against entrepreneurs from the new countries wishing to undertake economic activity in some of the countries of the so-called old Union, and also against their employees.

The most blatant cases of discrimination are taking place in the Netherlands, Austria and Italy. The legal systems of those countries allow companies and workers to be treated differently depending on whether they come from the so-called old Fifteen or the new Ten. A specific example is the requirement imposed on the latter to apply for permits for expatriate workers even before the start of economic activity. This is a very time-consuming procedure that can take up to six weeks in Austria, and the requirement is imposed only on companies and workers from the new countries. Economic entities from the old Fifteen are not required to present applications of this kind. Instead, they are simply required to notify the relevant authorities and provide them with a single sheet of information and a list of expatriate workers. They can begin to provide services immediately without any unnecessary delay. Should the authorities wish to undertake checks, these may take place whilst work is in progress, without interfering with the company’s economic activity. This is a clear example of discrimination sanctioned by national law, resulting in violation of the conditions for fair competition in the common Union market.

There are also a number of other countries where although there are no formal discriminatory provisions, the administration and officials behave in such a way that, in practice, it is impossible for companies from the new Member States to exercise their activity freely.

I have with me a collection of complaints from entrepreneurs who received particularly unfortunate treatment, even though they had complied with all the formal requirements. The kind of treatment both the owners of the firms and their workers were subjected to whilst their work was in progress includes having their hands stamped, being handcuffed, having dogs set on them and even being arrested for no good reason. I am sorry to have to say that Germany and France are countries where this kind of treatment is imposed all too often.

I would therefore like to ask the Commissioner what action the Commission intends to take to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Treaty regarding equal treatment for companies and citizens? Has the Commission already undertaken an audit of the provisions in Member States with a view to ensuring a level playing field for economic entities from the new Member States? If so, what was the outcome? If not, when will this audit of legal provisions and practices be undertaken so as to prevent discrimination?

I should also like to draw attention to a view shared by a large number of my fellow Members. We feel that unless the Commission becomes actively involved in combating discrimination against companies and workers from the new Member States, we shall fail to achieve the economic objectives identified in the Lisbon Strategy.

In conclusion, I should like to say that I trust the European Commission is aware of this situation. Commissioner Verheugen’s presence in the House today in his capacity as Vice-President of the Commission gives me reason to hope that this is indeed the case.


  Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, if there is anyone in this House who knows what the problems in the new Member States are like, it is I, having spent five years being responsible for enlargement, so you do not need to tell me about them.

Turning to the case to which you have referred, the Commission has received complaints in respect of one particular Member State, which is accused of breaching Community law by requiring work permits for workers from the new Member States sent or to be sent to this Member State to perform services. The Commission has therefore taken the necessary action against this Member State, has sought to bring infringement proceedings against it, and will ensure that the situation is corrected.

The Commission knows nothing of any other complaints. There have not, in particular, been any complaints relating to freedom of establishment, to which you have referred, and which was not implemented as recently as 1 May 2004, but rather as long ago as the mid-1990s. If you know of cases of discrimination in connection with the freedom of establishment, the Commission would be obliged if you would communicate that information. The only official complaints received by the Commission have to do with freedom of establishment in one single Member State, and the necessary action has been taken to deal with it.


  Handzlik on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the principle of equal treatment for entities from the various Member States is one of the cornerstones of the European Union. We are today discussing cases of discrimination against entrepreneurs and workers from the new Member States on the markets of old Europe. I should like to query if it is appropriate for the French administration to ask Polish entrepreneurs wishing to provide services in France in what way they think they are better and can therefore justify being allowed to operate in France. I have undertaken a good deal of research, and have found that in most cases entrepreneurs from SMEs in the new Member States rarely complain to the relevant authorities about the discrimination they have experienced. These entrepreneurs have only limited resources at their disposal and make a conscious decision not to engage in lengthy and expensive legal proceedings. They are simply afraid of further persecution by the host countries, given that the average entrepreneur is in a very weak position when pitted against the whole apparatus of the state.

One of the tasks entrusted to us by our constituents is coming to the defence of the victims of discrimination. We are therefore guardians of the fundamental principles of the Union, and would do well to ask ourselves what condition Europe might come to be in if discrimination is not combated first. There are two issues of crucial importance to the future of the Union. One is the Lisbon Strategy and the other is the draft services directive. We all understand that discrimination paralyses the internal market and prevents it from operating properly, which in turn makes it impossible to achieve the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy. It is therefore in all our interests to ensure that the internal market really does become a single economic entity free from discrimination. This cannot be achieved if numerous national barriers are erected.

In conclusion, I should like to point out that the instances of discrimination on the internal market discussed in the House today are regrettable obstacles to our joint efforts to integrate. If we allow these obstacles to remain, we shall all have to suffer the consequences.


  De Rossa, on behalf of the PSE Group. Mr President, I would need two hours to detail the problems that migrant workers face coming into and working in Ireland. We have the reputation of being one of the most generous countries in terms of allowing access from the ten new Member States. That is true. There are many good employers in Ireland who treat their workers well. Unfortunately there are employers in Ireland who treat workers from the ten new countries appallingly. We have cases of workers being expected to work for 12 hours per day, 7 days a week for EUR 1 per hour. We have situations where the Polish Embassy is on record as saying that it has queues of people coming to it in tears, having been fired on the spot by employers who know that there is a queue of Polish workers waiting to take their jobs.

The specific case I want to raise tonight relates to an actual case not in a Member State but in a candidate country: a Turkish company employing Turkish workers in Ireland that is engaged in the systematic defrauding of its employees. It has been transferring funds belonging to these workers to a Dutch bank, the account of which it controls. It is suspected that this company owns that bank.

I want the Commissioner to investigate that case. I want the Commission to contact the Irish authorities to find out why it has taken a Member of Parliament to reveal the facts, despite the fact that we have a department responsible for investigating breaches of labour law. We have 21 inspectors covering the whole state, a deplorably small number. We need at least 100.

I would also like the Commission to investigate whether Gama – the company to which I refer – is involved in money laundering and illegally shifting money that belongs to workers out of Ireland to a bank in the Netherlands which, it is claimed, it also owns.

I want an investigation into this. It is not good enough for us to pat ourselves on the back and say that we are doing great things, creating competition, ensuring that people get work, when those same people are being exploited deplorably. It is not good enough. The Commission must accept its responsibility to ensure compliance with European legislation.


  Grabowski on behalf of the IND/DEM Group.(PL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, in the case of the economically backward countries such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland that joined the Union later, the Union adopted a consistent policy encouraging the development of entrepreneurship and competitiveness. Part of this policy involved facilitating access to the Union market, which led to an increase in the balance of trade of the countries in question. This was one of the key factors in the rapid increase in jobs, tax revenue for the countries, investment and, as a result, swift economic development. Easier access to the Community’s markets allowed the backward countries to significantly reduce the gap between themselves and the more developed countries. I put it to you, ladies and gentlemen: did the former Communist countries aspiring to the European Union enjoy the same opportunity? The answer is that they did not. Instead of demonstrating a spirit of solidarity and providing aid, the Union exploited its own strength and capital advantage. It also took advantage of the submissiveness and corruption of leaders and delayed accession to extract further concessions. The clearest example of the above policy was the negative balance of trade between Poland and the European Union that was in excess of EUR 10 billion per annum. The new jobs and profits were created in the Union, not in Poland, but it was Poland that had to suffer increased unemployment and poverty. What did opening up their own market to Union companies mean to Polish companies? What did accession to the Union mean to them? Firstly, it meant unfair competition from companies enjoying technological and capital advantages. Secondly, it meant Polish businesses, banks and financial institutions being bought out for a pittance by Union concerns. Often the foreign concerns did not pay taxes or invest in Poland. Even worse, they transferred their benefits out of the country. Thirdly, it meant Poles had to make great sacrifices to modernise their companies and bear the considerable costs involved in order to comply with the Union’s requirements, standards and regulations. Fourthly, it meant agreeing to expensive and cumbersome bureaucratic and administrative procedures and also consenting to tax systems that made Polish firms less competitive and increased labour costs. VAT is one example of this. Fifthly, it meant consenting to quotas, limits and restrictions on production imposed by the Union either in relatively competitive and modern sectors such as the Polish shipbuilding industry, or in sectors producing high quality products, such as food.

Almost a year has gone by since Poland became a Member of the Union, and it has turned out that despite all the restrictions and difficulties placed in their way, Polish companies have managed to be competitive, to export and to work better. This is also true of individuals. The reaction of governments and local administrations of Member States has been to resort to other measures in order to restrict access to Union markets by Polish businesses. Examples of such measures are the rules concerning the provision of services, which is the sector of the market responsible for 70% of gross GNP whilst creating virtually 100% of new jobs. The restrictions imposed on Polish companies and on the workers employed by them in the building industry are another example. To make things worse, these restrictive provisions are implemented by over zealous local officials. One could write a book about the persecution endured by Polish firms. Complaints lodged with the local authorities are not followed up. It comes as no surprise to learn that those same over zealous officials never take an interest in cases where Polish workers are underpaid or employed illegally, or when they fill unattractive jobs. The question that arises is what is the European Union and what does it aspire to?

Were all those slogans about solidarity, doing away with differences, accelerated development and the common market so much hot air?

Poland and the other former Communist states cannot give in any more to the European Union. They have given all they could. That is why Polish entrepreneurs are going to stand up for their country and we, the Polish Members of this House, will stand shoulder to shoulder with them. We are calling for swift and firm decisions to eliminate instances of discrimination and their causes. Our demands are not unreasonable. All we want is a level playing field and fair play for all. We shall fight until we win our case, even if that means the collapse of the European Union!


  Szymański on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to begin by thanking Mr Protasiewicz for dealing with this matter. Mr Protasiewicz represents the same constituency as I do, and in fact there are four speakers from Lower Silesia, which makes it somewhat of a standard bearer for this cause. This is indeed praiseworthy, and I am glad of it.

Not only did enlargement result in many economic benefits for the new Member States, it also led to enormous economic benefits for the Union as a whole, particularly as regards potential benefits. This happened because the new countries offered slightly lower taxes and slightly cheaper labour whilst at the same time the legal framework for conducting economic activity was stabilised thanks to integration. These countries are therefore providing opportunities for the European Union, not threats, as certain speakers have implied. This is the reason why we are alarmed at the situation whereby Polish, Czech, and Hungarian entrepreneurs are coming up against obstacles deliberately placed in their way by administrations, hindering their economic activity on the territory of the old Union. Unfortunately, all the ten countries are affected. Closing the common market to these entrepreneurs amounts to acting to the detriment of the new countries. It is also detrimental to integration because it undermines the level of trust the people of Europe have in the process of integration. Most importantly, however, it is detrimental to the well being of Europe. We all have in mind the conflict over taxes and social policy. We will not endorse the socialist view that competition between social or tax systems amounts to dumping and is detrimental to the well being of all Europeans. Either we adopt a pluralistic approach to taxation and social policy issues in Europe, or we shall lose out to trading partners located far further away than the new countries. I refer to China and India.

The decision may be taken to continue keeping Polish and other entrepreneurs out, but it should be remembered that this will lead to Europe sinking deeper into the mire of economic stagnation. Instead of coming up with vague ideas for the harmonisation of different aspects of economic and tax law, the European Commission should focus on completing the basic task that has been outstanding for some 50 years, namely bringing about the common market.


  Belohorská (NI). The Iron Curtain collapsed fifteen years ago, and people from Eastern Europe were sincerely looking forward to becoming equal partners, certainly after having met certain economic criteria.

What is the truth today? Mr Verheugen, along with many parliament members, was compassionately discussing here the problems caused by lay-offs in Alstom, mentioning the destiny of 250 employees. Dear Mr Verheugen, more than anyone else you should be aware that in Slovakia not hundreds, but thousands were left without jobs due to the reforms we had implemented to become a member of the European Union. To achieve this goal, Slovaks made great sacrifices. I believe no one regretted that – on becoming equal partners a year ago, we all rejoiced. At least we thought that way then.

What is the truth today? I firmly believe that the old fifteen members, and not us, were far from being prepared for enlargement. The free movement of goods in an eastward direction has indeed come true – today our shops are as nice as yours, and this is fine; Slovaks do not need to go to the West to buy exclusive goods any more.

But how do matters stand with the free movement of people? Even though discrimination based on nationality is forbidden, preference in offering employment should be given to workers from new member states over workers from third countries. With the exception of three countries, all the others have imposed transitional provisions lasting from 2 to 7 years, with an option to reconsider the issues afterwards; and, as a consequence, these periods might even be extended. This further deepens the legal uncertainty of employees. We know perfectly well that, being in the West, our people – highly skilled members of the younger generation, educated and multilingual – are earning higher salaries, but under what social, and humanly unworthy, conditions. This is what I am asking you: please, also pay attention to this.


  Kohlíček, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a well-known fact that both workers and businesses from the new Member States are discriminated against. This discrimination starts with the way that businesses from the old Member States and other developed countries act as though they had never heard of labour legislation while operating in Central European countries. Certain Czech supermarkets, for example, are renowned for their medieval working conditions for check-out assistants, with people regularly being sacked during the three-month probationary period. There are many other examples of such abuses, with the ban on trade unions, which of course is not officially set down in writing anywhere, being particularly worthy of mention.

Shopping chains also adopt typically colonial attitudes towards their suppliers, and the long payment periods, advertising charges, shelf fees and extremely low prices they impose have already been criticised on numerous occasions. These practices are commonplace in Central and Eastern European countries, and it is also normal for little space to be allocated to goods from local suppliers, for suppliers to be required to provide monetary deposits before starting to supply goods, and for them to have to supply goods at any time of the day, seven days a week.

There are therefore a great many issues that remain to be resolved with regard to working conditions in the new Member States. At the same time, however, workers from the new Member States find it extremely difficult to gain recognition for their qualifications when they arrive in the old Member States, despite the fact that international agreements have been concluded on this matter. Trained nurses from the Czech Republic and Slovakia regularly work as trainee nurses in the old Member States and are paid accordingly, even though they are overqualified for such jobs. Similarly, it is rare for our skilled craftsmen to have passed any state-recognised exams, and this means that they are classed as unskilled workers in accordance with their wages, regardless of the work they have actually done. This is particularly the case in the building trade.

The recognition of university qualifications is also a major problem, and current legislation leaves much to be desired in this respect. By way of example, the three laws in force in the Czech Republic on the matter are far from perfect. It is high time that something was done about this state of affairs, and I am therefore calling on the European Commission and on Mr Verheugen to put forward a proposal outlining appropriate legislative measures. Thank you for your attention.


  Brejc, Mihael (PPE-DE). (SL) Thank you. In this Chamber President Barroso has stressed the importance of the Lisbon Strategy and the urgent need to establish the free flow of services, just the latest of the key features of the European Union’s internal market. On the one hand therefore, there is a clear desire to remove barriers so as to achieve the best possible functioning of the internal market, while on the other hand we new Member States have observed that our companies are frequently in an unequal position. For instance restriction of corporate enterprise in the internal market is exercised in the area of the production and installation of machinery and equipment, in the area of metal constructions, building work, decorating, processing of natural stone and so on.

Commissioner, you have said that you are familiar with the difficulties in the new Member States. Yet today we are not talking about these difficulties, but rather about difficulties in the old Member States. You have said that the Commission will take action against violations. We would of course be glad to know when this will happen, and what the results of such action will be. The extent of discriminatory behaviour is clearly very great, while the effectiveness of those that should be ensuring adherence to the Community acquis is poor.

I have the feeling, Commissioner, that the new Member States of the European Union were much better prepared for membership of the EU and for its enlargement than the European institutions. I would be glad to hear your opinion on this.


  Golik (PSE).   (PL) Mr President, I should like to start by warmly congratulating you on your election and on your first appearance as Vice-President. Commissioner, the outcome of today’s debate could not come at a better time for the many business people and citizens who believe that everyone has equal rights in the enlarged EU, and who want to sell their most valuable asset, namely their own labour, in the old Member States. Yet there are many people who no longer wish to work in the European Union. These people have already attempted to do so, but have been treated unequally and come up against government and local authorities that commit violations of law. These violations take the form of over-enthusiastic checks, frequently involving dogs and policemen, or arrests during which individuals’ hands are stamped and they are handcuffed. This is an infringement of their personal rights. These companies and individuals will never wish to work or provide services again in the old Member States. Is this what the market for services and labour is to look like in the United Europe? As representatives of our constituents, we are duty bound to defend their rights in the EU. I have not heard of a single instance of people being treated in this way in Poland, even though many thousands of foreign firms operate in the country, and a large part of industry and the majority of banks are controlled by foreign capital. Polish organisations, business people, ministries and embassies are regularly informed of cases in which Polish firms and Polish citizens who provide services as subcontractors to European businesses have been discriminated against. The case of the Apola company, which is based in Poznan, is a prime example of such discrimination, and one of the many that have come to my attention. The company’s employees and representatives were intimidated, arrested and persecuted by the French police and authorities in the Gard region. In many cases, such behaviour stems from the fact that the officials are human, or rather inhuman, and insufficiently acquainted with the rules. We bear no general grudge against nations or governments in this respect, but the issue should be discussed in this House, and it is for this reason that today’s debate should be followed up by a resolution in which such violations of the law are condemned. Finally, I should like to highlight one more instance of discrimination on the basis of nationality. It relates to new requirements brought in by the European Commission, which only apply to Polish nurses and midwives. The latter are now required to have worked for at least five out of seven years in order to obtain a certificate confirming their qualifications, without which they cannot work as nurses or midwives in the EU. Citizens of all the other 24 Member States are only required to have worked for three out of five years. As well as depriving these nurses and midwives of the chance to work and of their previous rights, these requirements, which are enshrined in European legislation, are an insult to their professional dignity. I have been waiting for an answer from the Commission on this matter for several weeks, and several hundred thousand nurses and midwives are waiting for a response to the petition they submitted to the European Parliament.


  Libicki (UEN).   (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the EU economy is in poor shape, with the French and German economies having been hit hardest, and it would appear that more or less everyone is to blame for this state of affairs. The United States are to blame for the excessively low dollar exchange rate, the Far East for using slave labour and the new Member States for pursuing genuinely healthy and competitive economic policies. New words are even being invented that are classic examples of Orwellian newspeak. To reiterate a point made by Mr Szymański, for example, the word ‘dumping’, with all its negative connotations, is being used instead of just talking about healthy economic competition.

Even though the draft Bolkestein directive had many merits, all the advocates of what is known as a ‘social economy’ took umbrage at it when it was tabled. Angry mutterings from Paris and Berlin were all that was needed to ensure that this excellent draft directive was thrown out. Other approaches are possible, of course, and one of these is discrimination. The latter is in fact very much in evidence, as noted by the previous speakers, who gave a long list of individuals and businesses that have experienced it.

Commissioner Verheugen is highly regarded in Poland, and this is something I should like to stress, yet I find his claims that he has only received a complaint concerning one country astonishing. In my capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Petitions, I have drawn up a long list of cases of discrimination, and I forwarded this list to Commissioner Verheugen, to the Dutch Presidency and to Commissioner Bolkestein. I find it regrettable that Commissioners are incapable of exchanging such information between themselves. If Commissioner Verheugen, who is extremely popular in Poland, as I mentioned, claims to know nothing about the matter, then that leaves us at a loss. If no exchange of information takes place within the Commission, then to whom should we forward this information?

The Lisbon Strategy and the Stability and Growth Pact were intended to turn the EU economy into the world’s leading economy, yet they failed to do so. Now we are hearing enigmatic statements to the effect that the aim is merely to turn the EU economy into one of the world’s leading economies, even though there is a fundamental difference between these two goals. This House has heard numerous complaints about the closure of the Bridgwater Cellophane Plant in the UK, with production being moved to Kansas. This is the choice you have, ladies and gentlemen: either you allow companies to move production to Poland, the Czech Republic or Slovakia, or they will move it to Kansas or the Far East.

Internal solidarity and external competitiveness were intended to be the foundations upon which Europe is built. Neither has been achieved, and we find this regrettable. As the American Indian saying goes, if you find out that your mount is an ageing mare instead of a mustang, then you should stop riding it immediately.

I would urge you to stop riding an ageing mare in the shape of an inefficient European Union social economy, with France and Germany leading the way in inefficiency.


  Czarnecki, Ryszard (NI).   (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, there are two Europes in existence today, an old, high-class EU and a new, low-class EU. The first of these is inconsiderate, short-sighted and sets little store by competitiveness. In other words, it is cutting off the branch on which it sits. The second may well have been given an official invitation to dine at the EU’s table, but in actual fact it is discriminated against. If your aim is to pit these two Europes against each other, then you should continue with your present course of action. I am curious to see what the outcome of the constitutional referendums in the Czech Republic and Poland will be. Those are two unrelated issues, I hear you say. Officially they are, but how do you intend to persuade the citizens of the new EU Member States that this is the case? You are asking the EU’s younger relatives to support the Constitution for a united Europe, at the same time as warning them to keep their distance from the united EU market. This is an extremely short-sighted attitude, and those countries, governments, societies and companies that subscribe to it are boosting Euroscepticism in Europe. Instead of overcoming the old divisions, they are creating new ones. We cannot even comfort ourselves with the thought that this is merely individual nations or industries being selfish, as it is in fact the same old stupidity we are used to, with all the disastrous consequences it has in both political and economic terms. It is an extremely unwise course of action, inter alia for consumers in the old EU Member States.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to sober up.


  Fjellner (PPE-DE). (SV) Mr President, as we have heard in this House today, there are quite a few examples of it still being easier for a hammer to cross the Baltic than it is, for example, for a joiner to accompany it and drive in the nail. I am therefore delighted about the draft Services Directive whereby we shall shortly be able to talk about four freedoms – freedom of movement for goods, services, people and also capital – and not, as at present, about only three. Under the current Treaty, a number of the things that, for example, go on in my own home country, Sweden, involving state-sanctioned and express discrimination against people from the new Member States are, however, completely unacceptable.

Allow me to offer a very short but extremely frightening and, unfortunately, far from unique example of the way in which trade unions and authorities together deny the EU’s new Member States access to the internal market. The Swedish case began with a local authority having to build a school and, because they followed the European rules on public tendering, a Latvian construction company (LP-Bygg) was engaged. Soon, the construction workers’ union was there, blocking access to the work place, halting the work, carrying placards and chanting ‘Go home, go home’. Their reason for doing this, they maintained, was that the Latvian company was responsible for signing a specifically Swedish collective agreement and that the Latvian one was not valid, despite the fact that it paid better than the Swedish one. The decision had been taken: the Latvians should leave. The company had recourse to the authorities, and the Labour Market Tribunal, on which the union sits, obviously adopted a position in favour of the trade union movement. Our Minister for Employment – and recent head of the trade union movement - also adopted a position in favour of the trade union movement. It is at such moments that I am ashamed of being Swedish.

Exactly one week ago, the Latvian company was forced into bankruptcy. As a result, we have school children without a school, taxpayers with additional tax to pay and unemployed Latvians. All so that the cartel in the Swedish labour market can continue to operate. Strengthened by its successes, the union is now, with the government’s support, conducting a campaign around the country, demanding that people who ‘do not look like proper Swedes should carry clear ID badges’.

That is unacceptable, and I wonder what the Commission intends to do to put a stop to this racism and protectionism that are rife in Europe.



  Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE).   (PL) Ladies and gentlemen, reference has been made in this House on many previous occasions to problems relating to discrimination against workers and companies from the new Member States on the EU internal market. I myself drew the House’s attention to the issue over seven months ago, yet I regret to say that nothing has changed since then. It is for this reason that we have heard so many Members from the new Member States speak again today about blatant violations of EU legislation in this respect. In addition to the so-called transitional periods that were imposed upon the 10 new Member States, the old Member States are placing an increasing number of legal and administrative obstacles in our way. Such practices encroach upon the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services, both of which apply to any entity that is legally registered in the European Union and both of which are enshrined in the Treaty. Evidence already exists of a great many instances in which discriminatory provisions, which again run counter to EU legislation, are to be found in the national legislation of the old Member States. The fervent opposition voiced by countries such as France, Belgium and Germany during debates on the liberalisation of services, as detailed in the Bolkestein directive, is further evidence of attempts to discriminate against companies from the new Member States. I find it quite astonishing that countries that agreed to the enlargement of the European Union and to integration with Central and Eastern European countries, knowing that the aim of such integration was to create a single and powerful socio-economic unit, are now standing in the way of efforts to achieve this aim. This was not the kind of EU we voted in favour of in the referendums held before last year’s enlargement. I would therefore call on the European Commission to take action and to make known its views on the issue, and also to take the appropriate steps to stop discriminatory practices against the new Member States.


  Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, honourable Members, let me repeat that the Commission has received official complaints only in respect of one single Member State. The Commission cannot take action on the basis of having picked up this or that here or there; if it is to act, a formal complaint has to be made. Every Member of this House is familiar with the rules.

To those honourable Members who have, today, spoken of hundreds of cases of discrimination, the only thing I can say is that they should advise those who believe themselves to have been discriminated against to submit a formal complaint. The Commission will follow up every single case, as it is obliged to do so.

I really would ask you not to throw accusations at me to the effect that the Commission has not considered any complaints other than those against this one Member State. I ask you not to doubt the truth of what I am telling you. If I tell you that we have received complaints directed only at one country, then that is indeed the case. See to it, then, that those who believe they have been discriminated against go down the appropriate channels, and then action will be taken. The Commission has already taken the necessary action to deal with the Member State in respect of which a complaint has been made. I did not say that we would do something; we already have, and the upshot of that is that these problems are being resolved.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.

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