France’s Macron says ‘posted worker’ rules betray EU spirit

FILE PHOTO French President Emmanuel Macron waits for a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 28, 2017. Picture taken June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo Top News

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday decried European rules allowing firms in low-wage countries to post workers elsewhere as a “betrayal” of the European spirit, seeking to overcome eastern European resistance to curbing the practice. Macron has pledged to overhaul a system under which “posted” workers can be sent to other European Union states on contracts that must guarantee the host country’s minimum wage, but under which taxes and social charges are paid in the home nation.

He says the system creates unfair competition in wealthier nations. Macron is pushing for the duration of these contracts to be limited to one year rather than two under a new European Commission proposal, and to reinforce measures to ensure the rules are obeyed.

“The single European market and the free movement of workers is not meant to create a race to the bottom in terms of social regulations,” Macron told reporters after meeting Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, who he said was in full agreement. Macron is on a three-day tour of central and eastern Europe, hoping to make progress on an issue over which Western nations and poorer eastern European states have been at odds for years.

He and Kern were due to meet the prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia – two low-wage eastern countries – later on Wednesday. “The posted workers’ directive as it currently functions is a betrayal of the European spirit in its essence,” Macron said.

He also said France and Austria shared the same views on the need to harmonise fiscal rules, build up a common European investment capacity and a euro zone budget that would be voted through by a euro zone parliament. “All of this encourages us to move forward with a new initiative to relaunch Europe before the end of the year,” he said, an ambitious project given impetus in part by Britain’s shock vote last year to leave the EU.

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