Barroso refuses to criticize Swedish Model

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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday said the EU has no plans to condemn Sweden for violating European labour rules following a union blockade of a Latvian construction company.


"In no way are we going against or criticizing the (Swedish) social model," Barroso told reporters in Stockholm on the sidelines of an annual Baltic Development Forum Summit here.

Earlier this month, Charlie McCreevy, the EU commissioner in charge of the internal market and services, told Swedish media that the union would side against the Scandinavian country in an upcoming European Court of Justice case pitting a Swedish construction workers' union against Latvian construction company Laval un Partneri.

"I think he was misunderstood," Barroso insisted on Sunday, adding "I'm not going to preempt the judgement of the European Court of Justice".

The Byggnads union blocked Laval's construction site in Vaxholm, just outside Stockholm, for several months in 2004 and 2005 because it paid its workers in Sweden far lower wages than permissible in the Scandinavian country.

Byggnads claimed that some of Laval un Partneri's workers made only 35 kronor an hour – a far cry from the 138 to 145 kronor hourly wage laid down in the collective agreements.

The Byggnads action was an attempt to pressure the company into signing Swedish collective wage agreements.

Laval took Byggnads to the Swedish Labour Court, which last December ruled that the union's actions had been permissible under Swedish law.

But the Latvian group argued that while the blockades may have been legal under Swedish law, they violated European regulations on the free circulation of labour and services.

As a result the Labour Court has now sought a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Barroso on Sunday said the European Commission had no intention of imposing uniform labour laws across its member states.

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

"Let's respect the tradition (within each country) but let's hope that that tradition is implemented or concretized in a way that is not against the European" guidelines.

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