Macron Wins Central European Support for Posted-Workers Reform

The French president argues the rules must change to make Europeans feel the EU works for them.

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

French president Emmanuel Macron has won support from the leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for reform of the EU’s posted-workers regime.

“We are prepared work with all our partners on a technical level to agree an adjustment of the Posted Workers Directive so that we can overcome the split in the EU,” Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said following a four-nation summit in Salzburg.

Robert Fico, his Slovak counterpart, suggested a deal could be reached by October.

Why it matters

The Posted Workers Directive allows companies to employ Eastern European workers in richer Western countries with the same salary and working conditions they would enjoy at home.

The idea was to speed up the modernization of the former communist states, but it has made low-skilled workers in the West uncompetitive.

There were almost two million posted workers in the EU in 2014, with the biggest group working in construction.

Macron’s government has proposed to cap the use of posted-workers contracts at twelve months over a period of two years.

Bulgaria, Poland and Romania have spoken out against the plan.

The big picture

Macron sees reform of the Posted Workers Directive as part of a broader effort to make the EU more responsive to its citizens.

The Financial Times reports:

His attempt to bolster support for the EU — reinforcing the idea that the bloc can help its citizens secure a better life — is seen as a key part of his strategy to counter populism and Euroskepticism.

Next week, Macron will host the leaders of Germany, Italy and Spain to discuss tougher anti-dumping and foreign-investment rules.