Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Let's call the whole thing off

You say potato, and I say potato… It doesn't work in print, but everybody knows the song. Nevertheless, when you try it the commission way, it does work – with a vengeance: you say competition, I say social dumping. And it cannot be allowed.

So says José Manuel Barroso, who yesterday told a "free-market think tank" that "pro-business plans" to deregulate the EU's fragmented services sector must avoid undermining Europe's cherished welfare state. "Appropriate guarantees" were needed to accompany service sector reform to guarantee the survival of social rights.

What is exercising the tiny mind of Barroso is that such proposals could lead to companies from nations with lower taxes and fewer regulations guaranteeing workers' rights undercutting those with higher levels of social legislation.

Such "social dumping", says Barroso, would occur when companies from eastern Europe could enter a market where social benefits are more expensive, while continuing to offer their workers benefits at the level of the home country.

Thus, while the man is "committed" to what he claims is deregulation, it seems that he will be borrowing from St Augustine: "Lord give me deregulation, but not just yet." We wonder if he knows the end of the song?

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