Europeans march against Bolkestein free market

13th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Feb 11, 2006 (AFP) - Demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin, four French cities and the Greek capital Saturday to voice opposition to a European Union directive opening up a free market in services.

BERLIN, Feb 11, 2006 (AFP) - Demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin, four French cities and the Greek capital Saturday to voice opposition to a European Union directive opening up a free market in services.

The move, known as the Bolkestein directive, after the Dutch former EU Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein, seeks to open up Europe's huge services sector to competition.

It will be debated next week at the European parliament in Strasbourg where a major demonstration is planned there for Tuesday.

In Berlin between 30,000 and 40,000 people took part in a protest, unions and police said.

Bolkestein "wants a free market for services without social protection, without environmental protection, with no coverage for workers," Michael Sommer, head of the German Confederation of Unions (DGB) said.

"His idea of Europe is obviously untamed, unsocial and unbridled capitalism."

In Strasbourg, on the Franco-German border, thousands of protestors from both countries turned out to attend a rally called by the Communist Party and far-left groups.

Banners reading "Bolkestein NO!" in several languages were unfurled in a procession led by the top brass of the French far left and anti-globalization forces from both countries.

In Athens, only several hundred demonstrators heeded the protest calls of Greek unions.

The demonstrations in Berlin and Strasbourg went ahead even though the two chief parties in the European Parliament, the conservative PPE and the socialist PSE, have agreed major amendments to the directive.

These would scrap the reference to the disputed "country of origin principle" which means that workers are paid according to the rules in force in their country of origin when they are sent to another EU state.

Police kept the marchers in Strasbourg — estimated at between 5,200 and 15,000 — well away from the parliament building after a violent demonstration by dockers last month which left 64 police officers injured.

There were also demonstrations in Bordeaux, in southwest France, Lille, in the north, and Nice in the southeast, each attracting a few hundred protestors.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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