McCreevy defends support for Latvians

European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has repeated his support for the Latvian company Laval in its row with Swedish unions.

“Just because Latvia is a new member state and one of its smallest states does not mean its concerns are less important,” McCreevy told the European Parliament, after he was asked to explain comments he made on the case last month.

McCreevy, who has responsibility for the internal market and services, said it was extraordinary that he had to justify his statements, as he was merely defending the EU’s single market rules.

He was backed up by Commission president José Manuel Barroso, who said he would not “attack Sweden’s or Scandinavia’s social model”, but vowed at the same time to “respect and defend the rules spelled out in the European treaties.”

McCreevy was summoned to the European Parliament after members demanded he explain his position on the conflict over the Latvian builders hired to build a school in Vaxholm near Stockholm.

The building site was blockaded when Laval refused to sign the unions’ collective agreements.

On a recent visit to Stockholm, McCreevy said the European Commission would take Laval’s side when the conflict comes to the European Court of Justice.

This resulted in letters of protest from among others Thomas Östros, Swedish union organization LO and the European Trade Union Confederation.

McCreevy’s views also sparked an angry debate in the European Parliament on Tuesday. Socialist leader Martin Schulz demanded concrete answers from the Commission on questions about the right to strike.

“We don’t want employees in Sweden to be played off against Latvian workers,” said Schulz.

Jan Andersson, a Swedish Social Democrat member of the parliament, said that McCreevy had said simply repeated what he had said earlier in Stockholm.

“If that isn’t going againt the Swedish model, then I don’t know what is,” said Andersson.

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