Democrat May 2007 (Number 102)
How the EU Operates
Legal process behind
The transnational corporations (TNCs) and powerful interests in the form of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) lobbied and pressed for legislation to de-regulate the labour market, public and economic services. Lobby groups can approach the Commission about legislation and policies. These lobby groups must consist of an EU wide representation and those like the ERT members have headquarters and permanent offices in Brussels.
The unelected Commission draws up EU legislation behind closed doors and presents this to the appropriate Council of Ministers for endorsement. This Directive was subject to Qualified Majority Voting rules. Fritz Bolkstein, internal market Commissioner, drafted the Directive in 2004 which included healthcare and ‘country of origin’.
There was huge opposition to this Directive from trade unions who coined the nickname ‘Frankenstein Directive’. In 2005 during the run up to the French Referendum, mass opposition to the EU Constitution was generated by the labour and trade union movement opposed to the Services Directive. The Commission withdrew the Directive but failed to prevent the majority ‘No!’ vote in France. The Directive also played a key part in the Dutch referendum and rejection of the Treaty.
The Austrian Presidency reactivated the Directive in 2006 with healthcare taken out. This was sent to the European Parliament for a first reading under the ‘co-decision’ process. The European Parliament amended the Directive and deleted the ‘country of origin’ principle. The European Parliament cannot of itself generate legislation. This institution can only block or propose amendments to legislation passed down by the Commission. The Commission substituted the ‘country of origin’ principle with an equivalent ‘mechanism’.
In May 2006 the European Standing Committee, a sub committee of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee, a select committee, passed a government proposal to accept this piece of EU legislation and agreed there was no need for it to be debated on the floor of the Commons. This was agreed to by the MPs on 22 May where amending legislation is to be decided without debate.
In November 2006 the amended Services Directive was again passed to the European Parliament but with the ‘country of origin’ principle put back in but expressed in different words. Despite this principle being thrown out earlier in the year this expensive talking shop approved the Directive. The only group in this institution to oppose the Directive was the GUE group.
Governments of Member States have until 2008 to report back to the Commission on how they have amended their national laws to put the Services Directive in place. In Britain this will be done by amending Acts of Parliament, new Acts and Statutory Instruments (SIs). These changes and additions to our laws will be dressed up as domestic business and not as EU imposed legislation. This process may take a couple of years to be completed in which the EU factor remains hidden.
Statutory Instruments are secondary legislation and used because they are much faster and simpler to implement than a full Act of Parliament. They have the same force as an Act of Parliament, and the great majority of Britain’s laws are made in this way. Two or three thousand SIs are passed each year compared to only a few dozen Acts. Many of these SIs really emanate from Brussels and the Government has admitted in answers to questions in parliament that over half of our legislation comes from the EU.
Reports of the business conducted by Select Committees can be found on the House of Commons Website at www.publications.parliament. To express an ‘opinion’ against a piece of EU legislation to a Select Committee requires notice and knowledge beforehand of when this occurs. Obviously it is too late after such report have been published.
It is not permissible for a national trade union to lobby the EU Commission. The EU system is set up for the ETUC to do this which is 80% funded by the EU and takes part in the social partnership with the ERT and Commission.
It is up to all interested parties, especially trade unions, to expose and oppose this Directive and introduction of the relevant legislation.
Footnote - The Services Directive has been ratified (rubber stamped) by Parliament at Westminster
without any debate.