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Friday 03 November 2017

The Posted Workers Directive - The Start@Europe Seminar in Brussels

The 9th edition of Start@Europe was held on 30 and 31 October 2017 at the European Parliament in Brussels, under the patronage of personalities such as Nicole Fontaine, Michel Barnier, Alessandro Chiocchetti and Stéphane Saurel. During this seminar co-organised by ESCP Europe and ENA, ESCP Europe students negotiated a draft revision of the 1996 Posted Workers Directive. They came from Europe and the whole world and had a unique opportunity to put Europe at the heart of the debate. A look back at the highlights of this seminar with the International and European Institute

The Posted Workers Directive: a topical and highly political issue

The Posted Workers Directive of 1996 allows EU companies to send their employees to another Member State for a limited period of time. These posted workers benefit from the working conditions of the host country, while wages remain the same as in the country of origin. In its excesses, this directive creates a form of "social dumping" in favour of Eastern European countries, where social security charges are lower. This directive also gives free rein to infringements of labour law in the host countries and to various forms of illegal work. In October 2017, labour ministers of the EU Member States agreed to revise the Posted Workers Directive. France, through its Head of State Emmanuel Macron, has been participating in efforts to promote stricter rules in order to avoid social dumping.

It is therefore a topical and highly political issue that has arisen for the negotiators of Start@Europe 2017. Divided into delegations, the students prepared the draft revision of the directive during the first day. At the end of this exercise, the Konstantinos Karamanlis delegation was appointed to lead the trialogue for the following day. Students were grouped by political affinity and prepared their amendments for the final vote. The second day of negotiations, chaired by Nicole Fontaine, ended with the statements of the political groups and the vote on the amendments, which resulted in the adoption of the draft revision by a large majority. 

Michel Barnier: "Europe must be united, not uniform"

More than 300 students gathered in the Parliament hemicycle to listen to Michel Barnier's keynote address. This former student of ESCP Europe (class of 1972) has been the chief negotiator for the preparation and conduct of the Brexit negotiations for several months now. 

During his speech, he recalled his early commitment to the European project: despite being a political activist for the Gaullist party, he supported the accession of Norway, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom to the EU in 1972. Unlike many of his peers, Michel Barnier believes unequivocally in diversity within Europe: "Europe must be united, not uniform," he says. If the European institutions are so complex today, it is precisely because they are the tool that makes the European project work while respecting the specificities of each nation. There is no European people, there are European peoples" insists Michel Barnier.

On the Brexit, Mr Barnier expresses his regret that the United Kingdom is putting an end to these 44 years of collaboration with the European Union. However, he claims to "respect" the British sovereign decision, hoping that they will also honour their commitments to the EU within the framework of orderly and transparent negotiations. M. Barnier points out that the consequences of Brexit will be legal, human, social, economic and technical: when the United Kingdom leaves the EU, it will abandon nearly a thousand bilateral and multilateral agreements, which points to the likelihood of a difficult separation. However, the UK and the EU will remain members of the same community of values, on the basis of future relations that are yet to be established. Finally, he concludes on an optimistic note, the future of Europe is far more important than the Brexit: it will be necessary for the remaining 27 to be "together and united" on all the other challenges facing Europe.

Nicole Fontaine:"Rethinking Europe, a major project"

For the former President of the European Parliament, this directive on posted workers is particularly enlightening of legislative work at the European level. It is a sensitive subject, both political and legal, that allows us to understand the complexity of interinstitutional relations and to highlight, with a pedagogical dimension, the Parliament's central role in the decision-making process. The directive has also made it possible to bring out differences of opinion which go beyond the traditional right-left divide, and sometimes reflect the interests of the Member States, explains Nicole Fontaine.

In this sense,"the issue of posted workers is emblematic of the great task before us: to rethink Europe by taking into account the mistakes of the past, to set up a social Europe which protects its citizens".

Alessandro Chiocchetti:"Europe is compromise"

As the Deputy Head of Cabinet to the President of the European Parliament, Mr Chiocchetti explained the essential role of this institution in the democratic life of the European Union. “It is the branch of the legislative authority and the only place where democratically elected people can meet to talk about the problems of the population. Without the Parliament, the EU would be a purely bureaucratic system," he explained to the students. However, disagreements between Member States regularly prevent MEPs from reaching a compromise, which is essential to the survival of the democratic process. Parliament must become "the home of the European citizens", thinks Alessandro Chiocchetti, and in order to do so,"we must combat the tendency of national governments to systematically reject their responsibility for the failure of negotiations on the EU". 

Frank Bournois:"We want to be actors of the European renaissance"

For ESCP Europe Director, Start@Europe was an opportunity to reaffirm the School's determination to work for the European project, for diversity and inclusiveness. ESCP Europe's ambition is to "be the best business school in Europe" and to succeed in shaping the future of the business world, thanks to its openness to the world and its interdisciplinary identity. Alongside Frank Bournois, Étienne Desmet (Secretary General) and Léon Laulusa (Academic Dean) also renewed their commitment to the European identity of the School.

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