In 1996, the European Union adopted a new directive loosening the free movements of workers within its borders. It made an exception to a 1980 law stating that workers are protected by the law of the state in which they work, thus facilitating social and financial dumpling: employers can use cheaper labor than it is usually available at their site of production when workers come from countries with lower payroll expenses or firms with headquarters in Eastern European countries can send workers to the more prosperous side of Europe while still paying the same amount of payroll taxes. As a result, the number of Eastern European workers migrating towards the Western part of the Union amounted to 166,000 last year.
While this directive might be seen as useful for workers coming from the poorest countries in Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron, currently on a diplomatic tour in Eastern Europe, declared in Vienna that the 1996 measure is “a treason to the European values.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern stood by his side in his attempts to convince Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania to drop the directive in view of the upcoming European Union texts reforms in October.
Macron’s propositions against the posted workers directive are to reduce the allowed period of time given to workers abroad from 24 to 12 months, equalize wages between posted and local workers, and accentuate the regulations and controls to eradicate the many “mailbox” companies, which are firms falsely based in Eastern European countries for lower tax expenses.
As the biggest providers of posted workers, Poland and Hungary are major opponents of the reform. On Friday, during a speech in the Bulgarian city of Varna, Macron bluntly denounced Poland’s refusal to tighten the directive’s regulations, which he illustrated as a “new mistake by Warsaw which already put itself on the fringes of the European Union regarding numerous matters.” The President also declared that “Poland is not even close to what Europe is aiming at, by deciding to go against Europe’s interests.”
Macron alluded to the recent jurisdiction passed in Poland that has been staunchly criticized by other European countries for being allegedly discriminatory, as it would allow the Polish Minister of Justice to implement different retirement ages for male and female judges as well as extending the judges’ mandates beyond retirement age.
Warsaw’s answer to the French President was scathing and possibly created Macron’s first diplomatic incident within the European Union.
“Perhaps those arrogant declarations are due to a lack of political experience, which I comprehend, but I am waiting for him to rapidly catch up with shortcomings and be more reserved in the future,” declared the Poland’s Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo. “I advise Mr. President to focus on his country’s current affairs; he would then maybe rise to Poland’s economic results and security levels.”
As a reply, the Elysee declared that “the President’s critique was not aiming at the European Eastern countries but was already formulated by the Commission as non-respect of the European principles.”