What is the state of play with your work on the free movement of workers?
The legislation is on the agenda for the March plenary session in the European Parliament and I hope that it will be approved. We achieved a good compromise with the Council and we have the agreement of all political groups so I hope that it will go through without any amendments.
What were the main improvements introduced by MEPs?
There are many improvements. The Commission came with the idea that foreign nationals should be given information and assistance; we added an obligation to inform citizens before leaving, just to be prepared on what different conditions to expect and also where to find help if needed. We also ensured that the provision of information is coordinated both inside a country (not divided by different government departments) and with a European wide network. For the scope, we tried to distinguish between conditions of employment and conditions of work and to point out health and safety which was not in the original proposal. The main addition was on victimization. These should help improve conditions for Union workers.
Are there any areas of labour mobility which worry you?
Member States should indeed be aware of side effects of labour mobility, and we have warned about that in the Directive. What concerns me the most with labour mobility is abandoned children. There is an estimate in Romania of around 80,000 abandoned children. These issues are disturbing aspects of labour mobility. But this directive also gives rights to family members.
Turning to the Gender Equality, the Commission published a report last month which highlighted austerity measures impacting on women more than men. What has the crisis meant for women in particular?
Unfortunately, this is a very wide topic – the gender pay gap is persistent, if not worsening for the last few years. There have been no changes. When we have newer figures (than from 2011) the situation will probably be even worse. What I consider as one of the worst impacts is that we didn’t succeed in adopting a proper directive on maternity leave. We are under International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention standards, so it is incredible – ILO standards cover all countries not just for European developed countries. The situation of single mothers with children in terms of child poverty, which is mainly a women’s issue due to the care obligation, is another issue I am worried about. And I am afraid the legislation on women’s representation on company boards in Europe, currently blocked by governments in the Council, will have the same fate as maternity leave.
What has the crisis meant for public services in Europe?
I am a member of the working group for European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and what we see recently are a lot of applications coming in from this field. We have had many applications concerning social workers for example and it seems to me that this is where the impact of the crisis is being felt. Sooner or later, the crisis will end. What I am afraid of is that the employment rate will take longer go back to pre-crisis levels. The last crisis, analysis showed it took 17 years. The labour market will take time to adapt to new conditions.
What do you think will be the legacy of this legislature in the European Parliament?
I think that history will see the closer integration of economic policies and better economic integration as a defining step forward. Without that, monetary union integration (the new banking union) would have suffered. The migration package has also been significant, with profound changes since the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
How do you think the idea of ‘candidates’ from each political group for the Commission presidency will affect the dynamic of the elections? Are you backing a particular candidate in the EPP?
It depends. For those countries who have a candidate, it will have an influence. But in those without any candidates, in my view it won’t have any influence. I could be wrong of course, it might happen! For the candidates we don’t know how many there will be. At the moment, we have Michel Barnier (French Commissioner), Jean-Claude Juncker (former Luxemburgish PM) and Valdis Dombrovskis (former Lativian PM). We’ll see what happens.
What do you consider are among your greatest achievements in the European Parliament?
I have really enjoyed my work in the Parliament and have dealt with some fascinating pieces of legislation. Besides what I have been working on recently on the free movement of workers, I am most proud of my work on the Directive on trafficking in human beings. For me, this was a huge leap in European policy towards stamping out slavery.
Edit Bauer MEP is a member on the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. Edit Bauer is standing down as a MEP at the next elections after 25 years in politics and 10 years in the European Parliament.