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15th Apr 2024

Barroso says McCreevy was misunderstood in Swedish labour row

  • "In no way are we going against or criticizing the [Swedish] social model", said Mr Barroso (Photo: European Commission)

The president of the European Commission has said his internal market commissioner was misunderstood when earlier this month he appeared to challenge a key part of Sweden's social model.

Jose Manuel Barroso said that Brussels did not intend to punish Sweden for violating EU labour rules, after Swedish trade unions blocked a Latvian construction company from working in the country.

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The Latvian company, Laval un Partneri, had refused to take part in the country's collective wage agreements.

"In no way are we going against or criticizing the [Swedish] social model", Mr Barroso was quoted as saying by news agency AFP on Sunday (16 October).

"I think he was misunderstood", said the commission president referring to comments by Charlie McCreevy where he said he would side with Laval un Partneri against the Swedish government in a case to be heard by a European court.

"I'm not going to pre-empt the judgement of the European Court of Justice", Mr Barroso added.

Mr McCreevy's comments caused a large stir in Sweden as well as resulting in the European Parliament calling for him and Mr Barroso to appear before plenary to explain the comments.

Attempting to calm the storm, Mr Barroso also said that the commission was not intending to harmonise labour laws across the EU.

The EU needs to "find the right balance", he said.

"Let's respect the tradition [of each member state] but let's hope that that tradition is implemented…in a way that is not against the European guidelines".

Protectionist wind

For his part, the internal market commissioner has said that he has "never, ever said that any member state’s system of collective agreements should be changed".

But he continues to vigorously defend opening up the bloc's internal market further amid signs that countries such as France and Italy are becoming more protectionist.

Speaking to German daily FT Deutschland, Mr McCreevy said that "a strong protectionist wind is blowing through the EU".

"If member states continue to shield themselves from foreign company takeovers and competition, then I fear that the internal market will begin to dissolve", the commissioner warned.

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