MEPs voice opposition to EU port liberalization
Ahead of today’s vote, a large number of members of the European Parliament voiced their opposition to the draft European Union’s Port Package II program, which aims to liberalize port services.
Tuesday’s debate in the plenary session followed Monday’s violent clashes between approximately 6,000 protesting dockers and police, with damage sustained to the front of the EU Parliament building in Strasbourg.
Speaking for the Employment Committee, Stephen Hughes (U.K.) condemned Monday’s violence as unacceptable, but urged MEPs to understand the dockers’ frustrations.
“Self handling is ludicrous. It would create a health and safety nightmare. Opening pilot services to tender at the lowest price is ludicrous. In my area of Teesside, with its major chemical industries, it would expose the entire population to danger. The commission should revise its proposal completely before bringing it forward,” Hughes said.
Willi Piecyk (Germany), speaking for the Socialist group, confirmed he would be voting against the proposal. “It overlooks the realities of EU ports. They are functioning economic structures. We want to export the competition that already exists in most ports. This directive would bring more red tape and put lives and livelihoods at risk. Why jeopardize safety standards? There is already cutthroat competition in most ports,” said Piecyk.
Piecyk also said that European social standards should not be replaced with Asian ones. “We want you to stop this inherited package and develop a fair competition policy and good example for ports across the world.”
Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot and parliament rapporteur, Georg Jarzembowski were isolated in their support for the proposal. “If it is to be rejected, there will be no European rules, which would create planning and legal uncertainty. I want to say to my colleagues, try not to worry too much about yesterday’s strikes. We should not allow the actions of some to influence us,” said Jarzembowski.
MEPs rejected a similar bill three years ago and are widely expected to do so again today.