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Europe drive vs workers assailed

ABS-CBN | June 24, 2008

Europe drive vs workers assailed

By Estrella Torres
Business Mirror

A regional coalition of civil-society organizations in Southeast Asia has criticized the European Union Parliament decision mandating the forcible deportation of more than 60,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Europe.

The coalition said the decision, embodied in a draft legislation approved on first reading, negates the goals of the proposed EU free-trade deal with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), seeking to open trade and investments including the seamless entry of Asean workers to Europe.

Ellene Sana, director of the Centre for Migrant Advocacy, noted the irony: the EU Parliament decision comes amid a series of Joint Committee Meetings (JCM) for EU and Asean trade experts who will gather in Manila this week to include cooperation in trade in services.

“The EU is driving away our workers out of Europe, but they want us to welcome with open arms their products and their investments,” said Sana in a statement over the weekend.

The EU Parliament approved on first reading last week the EU rules on deportation of undocumented workers in all its 27 member-countries. This includes a provision of detention for foreign workers and their families who failed to legalize their stay under a prescribed period.

The decision will affect close to 40,000 undocumented workers in France, mostly in Paris and Nice; and some 20,000 in Rome and Milan in Italy. These workers are mostly caregivers and domestic help.

Sana cited a provision in the proposed Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) that is being negotiated by the EU with Asean members, where the EU has taken a defensive position on the migrant labor issue under the movement of natural persons (MNP) in the services chapter.

“The EU wants to make it clear that when they speak of labor export, they only refer to ‘skilled and highly skilled’ workers. They want the professionals who can help run their companies but they don’t want low skilled, blue-collar workers entering their borders,” Sana stressed.

EU is negotiating PCA deals with individual Asean members, seeking to promote the EU’s key values of human rights, democracy and rule of law. These would include the “dignified” deportation of all undocumented workers from Asean member countries from Europe, the ratification of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the monitoring and promotion of human rights in these Asean states.

The Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines will host a two-day seminar from June 23-24 in Dusit Hotel in Makati City on the Trans-Regional Asean-EU Trade Initiatives (Treati) for key trade officials and private investors in Asean countries, with focus on the services trade or outsourcing. The EU noted that trade in services is a vital component of trade that must be included in the EU-Asean free trade agreement, as it is now the key driving force of many Asean economies, particularly the Philippines.

The Philippines has posted more than US$3 billion in revenues in 2007 from the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, mostly coming from the US and United Kingdom.

The Treati seminar is in preparation for the JCM meetings of the EU and Asean trade officials from June 25-27, to iron out the elements of a proposed free-trade agreement between the two regions. “Contrary to the recent statements made by European Commission representative to the Philippines Ambassador Alistair Mcdonald that the country should see Europe not in terms of towers (Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, etc), but in terms of bridges, with the new EU directive, Filipinos should see Europe once again as ‘Fortress Europe,’” added Sana.

 source: ABS-CBN