The French president has ruffled feathers by questioning the bloc’s “posted” workers policy which allows European companies to send employees to work in another EU member country while continuing to pay benefits and taxes in their own country.
Higher-wage countries such as France argue this amounts to “social dumping” by allowing companies with lower costs to compete unfairly with local firms.
Many central and eastern European states see the planned changes as nothing more than veiled protectionism and are vehemently opposed.
Macron said: “The single European market and the free movement of workers is not meant to create a race to the bottom in terms of social regulations.
“I think that Europe should protect [its citizens], and in that way, the European integration project should get a new meaning. Ultimately our citizens want to free themselves from the pressures of globalisation.
“A Europe that protects is also in the position to solve the problem of posted workers. The posted workers directive, as it currently works, is a betrayal of the European spirit… This only fuels populism in our countries.”
Estonia, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is due to table a new proposal in September.
The French president enlisted the Czech and Slovak leaders, meaning he now has half of the four-nation Visegrad group which has opposed western European countries on issues including migrants and reform of the posted workers’ directive.
Robert Fico, the Slovak prime minister, said progress had been made and reaching a deal by a meeting of European leaders in October was “realistic”.
He said: “That would be good news for the whole EU. It is a directive that interests all countries in the EU.”
His Czech counterpart, Bohuslav Sobotka, was also supportive.
He said: “For the Czech Republic, I can say we are prepared to work with all our partners on a technical level to agree to an adjustment of the posted workers directive so that we can overcome the split in the EU.
“The posted workers’ directive solves a certain problem but we have to also solve the fundamental issue, which is the huge differences in living standards in individual parts of the EU.”
Macron does not plan to visit the more hardline Visegrad countries, Poland and Hungary, during his trip.
Next will travel to Bucharest for talks with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis and prime minister Mihai Tudose before moving on to Narnia in Bulgaria to meet President Rumen Radev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Emmanuel Macron accuses Eastern Europe of ‘betrayal’ in freedom of movement CRACKDOWN have 418 words, post on www.express.co.uk at 2017-08-24 03:31:15. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.