EUROPE ON THE EDGE: Macron to spark EU rupture as he cracks down on cheap eastern workers

Tuesday, August 8, 2017
By Paul Martin

EMMANUEL Macron is fuelling a major east-west split in the European Union as he pushes for rules to protect French workers from “unfair” labour competition from eastern states.

Tue, Aug 8, 2017

The flailing French president has pledged to counter “social dumping” in France in which companies employ cheaper labour from the poorer eastern European states, threatening French workers’ jobs, an official said.

EU states are divided on rules under which, for example, a Bulgarian truck driver or a Lithuanian bricklayer can work in France for a limited time for the eastern European wage, often below the minimum level guaranteed in wealthy western Europe.

Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic say they should be allowed to compete on lower prices – just as more developed western EU nations compete on quality products and know-how – to catch up after decades of communist stagnation.

The dispute is shaping up as one of the most contentious issues facing the bloc, exacerbating an east-west rift as it seeks unity to tackle Brexit.

The French official said Emmanuel Macron would seek stricter rules on “social dumping” during his August 23-25 trip to Austria, Romania and Bulgaria, when he would also hold talks with the Czech Republic and Slovakian prime ministers.

The official described the visit as “an important symbol, since these are countries which in the past have been neglected, or ignored by France, or at the very least they feel as if this has been the case”.

Mr Macron pledged during his presidential campaign to reform French labour laws to kick-start the revitalisation of the French economy.

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