This week the first debate of the new legislative period of the European Parliament took place with Vladimir Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Špidla took stock of the activities of the Commission and gave a forecast on the coming years. The MEPs showed their disappointment and criticised him in the strongest terms.
Špidla: Use the crisis as an opportunity
The crisis is an opportunity to restructure the functionality of society, said Špidla. Only he failed to explain how exactly he imagined this change. This definitely provoked some of the MEPs. One of them even commented that hearing the speech of Špidla he felt like living on another planet. This is understandable as no great process has been made in European social and employment policies before or during the crisis. The long overdue Directive on Temporary Agency Work Directive had been adopted; however, exceptions still undermine the right of temporary workers on equal payment. The year-long Working Time Directive negotiations have failed. The problem with the latest judgements of the European Court of Justice in connection with the Posting of Workers Directive still exists. The new Anti- discrimination Directive and Directive on Maternity Leave are more controversial than ever. The list of open and blocked dossiers respectively could be continued further. Although Špidla admitted some problems, he would not present concrete solutions. In fact, he gave a positive summary, in which he mentioned among others the globalisation fund, the Flexicurity debate, the European Works Council Directive and the agreements of the European social partners on the Parental Leave Directive as well as the needlestick injuries. He also commented on the opening of the labour markets in the European Union. At the same time, however, he came also out in favour of the necessity to introduce common rules in the labour market. A forecast concerning the next period of the Commission remained rather vague because it has not been decided yet who will be the future Employment Commissioner. According to circles in Brussels, however, there is a possibility that Špidla will remain as Commissioner.

Political balances of power do not bode well
A lot also depends on the composition of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. There is currently a clear Conservative majority, for whom social and employment policies are not at the top of their list. Hence, new initiatives or support with ongoing plans are not expected.