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Europe: integration or disintegration

Parliament is working well.

In fact it is working better and better, with democratic practices that are a credit to it.

Once more it has given the proof of this as it examined on first reading the draft directive on services.

Used by opponents of the Constitution, the believers in sovereignty, right and leftwing extremists, who wanted to scare people off, this text has been researched for over two years, a true labour of re-writing, of intelligent counter-proposals and a compromise between the main political parties. Hence all the ingredients for a balanced recipe have been brought together and this has been confirmed by the comments on the part of those who believed that this project did not go far enough.

It is all about enabling companies in the services sector in Union countries to establish themselves but also to set out the conditions in which their employees can work on a temporary basis in a State other than their own. Since 1996, a text states that posted workers must respect local social law. But concerns, that were largely unjustified, emerged, especially in France where the fear of "social dumping" was waved like a red flag by the very people who had always ensured that the social domain was never mentioned on a European level.

By replacing the so-called "country of origin principle" by reverting to its original objective i.e. of non-discrimination associated with nationality other than necessity (health and public security) and the respect of the proportionality of possible restrictive national measures, the European Parliament has accomplished much in disarming a procedure that had taken the wrong path.

It does remain however that extending the freedom for Europeans to be mobile and to work where they wish to in the services area is vital to the health of our economies. Each year the Union exports more than 250 billion euros in services. It has a 25 billion euros surplus in its trade balance in this sector. Our services economies count for over 70% of wealth produced. The impact of opening up the market might represent more than half a point in the domestic product and over 600,000 jobs. It is time to start! It features in the first articles of the Rome Treaty alongside the other major freedoms of movement of people, merchandise and capital.

Some will be sorry not to have witnessed ideological debates that would have enabled us to be more daring.

We should however be pleased at the newly found peace at the European Parliament. The proportions of the disputes on the project demanded pacification and a return to reason; this has been made possible because Democracy is working in Europe!

The world that is now emerging before us is nothing like the one we witnessed 20 years ago. It is in Asia, Latin American and other regions, representing half of the world's population that the true spirit of competition is springing forth; there competition is no longer considered as bad language, it is beneficial and represents an opportunity! 

Indeed from these continent States arise true challenges and competition. It will not come from within the Union where differences in development are compensated for and for which there have always been well established safety nets.

Therefore we must not deceive the Europeans; it is the unification of the European continent that will provide us with our best chance for the future and not re-nationalisation or the timid withdrawal into spaces that are too small in order to make any difference in the world.

Whether we like it or not this means the creation of a completed single market by the harmonisation of our economic policies and social conditions. In the history of Europe there has never been an example of declining harmonisation!

Since the Second World War Europe has come a long way. We would not have become what we have become; we would not have experienced the exceptional rise in our living standards without the opening of merchandise markets started in 1960's. It represented a real boost which each European citizen has taken advantage of personally.

If it is necessary today to establish new growth objectives and boost the economy of the European Union because the world context has changed and to provide ourselves with the means to do so by adapting to the new rules, the method is still good. We have a choice between the disintegration of the Union but also of our national societies and greater integration of our States.

Only continuation and the re-launch of the integration procedure will enable us to find the path to growth and employment once more. We must have the courage to speak out clearly. Recently we have been far from doing this!