National populists jeopardize the freedom of movement in Europe. Socialist populists jeopardize the free movement of goods and services.
French President Emmanuel Macron has embarked on a mission to Central and Eastern Europe with a strange idea. He lobbies for a directive to shorten the stay and, according to the Financial Times, to increase the salaries of our posted workers, from the minimum wage level, to salaries equal up to the level of French or German employees in the sector. Macron, of course, claims that it is social dumping and he is willing to fight against it, but… Posted workers account for only 0.7 percent of employees. However, France, Germany and Belgium, have problems with Eastern European workers who compete with their resident workers, especially in the construction industry.
In Slovakia, we can still produce bricks, concrete, gypsum or tiles with the help of a cheap workforce and send them to France, where it will “take over” the products of domestic producers. But we can no longer send people who receive lower wages and pay lower taxes so that they can combine these materials cheaply and build a house from them…
So how can they beat local populists who propose banning cheap food imports from Germany or France? Cheese or wine should be sold at prices at which products of the same quality can be produced in our country! And let´s sell Chinese rice at the same price as it can be cultivated in the Orava region! We can continue with foreign banks that dump domestic capital and reduce its revenues, can’t we?
Macron´s initiative illustrates how much he believes in the efficiency of domestic minimum wages to push the poorer and cheaper workers out of the market. These socialists thus confirm the arguments of the right about the negative effects of the minimum wage on socially weak groups of the population. What is a better proof of this than Macron´s promise to increase this wage, which is then used as a hammer for the poor workers of Eastern Europe?
This is a central theme in Slovakia as well. Our government proposes to raise the minimum wage to EUR 480 per month. Unemployed people who are less productive and cannot create a monthly value of more than EUR 630 of wage costs linked to such a minimum wage will have the same bad luck as a Polish construction worker in France. Their job and the chance of getting another one will disappear.
While Poland and Hungary called Macron’s agenda “protectionism”, Slovak PM Fico and European Commissioner Šefčovič are applauding. Why should we create unnecessary problems at the headquarters of Europe to defend the interests of Slovak employees and companies when priorities are elsewhere? Being in the core of Europe? No, spending Eurofunds peacefully is what is truly important to us.
Translated by Monika Olejárová