ETUC concerned about Commission proposal on free movement of goods

In February 1997, the European Trade Union Confederation argued that a European Commission proposal on the free movement of goods, drawn up in response to the recent French lorry drivers' dispute, could infringe on the right to strike.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has expressed concern about a proposal issued by the European Commission, which seeks to ensure the free movement of goods within the European Union during periods when an industrial dispute is taking place in a Member State.

In November 1997, the Commission proposed a Council of Ministers Regulation which would enable the Commission to request, by means of a mandatory decision, a Member State, on whose territory serious obstacles to the free movement of goods have been noted, to take the measures necessary to remove these obstacles. This decision, according to the Commission, would make it easier for private individuals who have suffered damages to seek compensation before national courts. If the Member State concerned did not conform to the Commission decision within a deadline, the Commission could refer the Member State to the European Court of Justice (on the basis of Article 169 of the EC Treaty) very rapidly, owing to the urgency of the situation. This proposal is described by the Commission as a response to the mandate of the Amsterdam European Council (EU9706133N), which asked the Commission to submit proposals before December 1997 on "the means of guaranteeing in an effective manner the free movement of goods". The proposal, which is seen as a response to the French lorry drivers' dispute of November 1997 (FR9711177F), was discussed at an informal meeting of the Internal Market Council on 13 February 1998.

In a statement preceding the Council meeting, ETUC general secretary, Emilio Gabaglio, said that the proposal currently on the table was absolutely unacceptable because of its potential implications limiting the right to strike. He argued that the Commission's explanations were far from reassuring and not satisfactory and called for the proposal to go back to the drawing board. ETUC and its affiliate, the Federation of Transport Workers' Unions in the European Union, are demanding an input into the formulation of any such measure.

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