Sindicalistii germani considera ca romanii si bulgarii care lucreaza in industria agroalimentara germana au fost redusi la conditia de sclavi industriali.
Revista franceza Nouvel Observateur a publicat acum cateva luni un articol foarte critic despre dumping-ul social practicat de firme daneze si olandeze care opereaza in regiunea Bremen din Germania.
Pana de curand, Germania a fost cunoscuta ca exportator major in industria automobilelor si a masinilor-unelte, Franta detinand in Europa pondeera cea mai importanta in exporturile de produse agricole si alimentare. Din 2007 insa, exporturile agro-alimentare ale Germaniei au depasit pe cele ale Frantei, mai ales in domenii cum ar fi exportul de preparate din carne de porc, vita sau pui.
Francezii ii acuza pe germani de concurenta neloiala, fapt evident in domeniul industrializarii carnii de porc. In 2012 francezii au pierdut astfel 3.8 % din piata mondiala, cu toate ca aceasta se afla in plina crestere. Desi competitiva in domeniul cresterii animalelor, Franta pierde teren in industria mezelurilor si semi-preparatelor din porc, deoarece Germania practica masiv dumping-ul social. Acesta consta in apelul masiv al firmelor la mana de lucru interimara din strainatate, platita cu salarii intre 3 si 5 euro pe ora, in timp ce in Franta muncitorii sunt platiti cu 10-12 euro pe ora.
Astfel, reporterii revistei N.O. au putut constata ca in regiunea Bremen intre 75 si 90 la suta dintre muncitori sunt straini, in principal romani sau bulgari. Acestia nu au oficial dreptul de munca in Germania, fiind angajati potrivit Directivei Bolkenstein pe contract de prestari servicii, ca « detasati » ai unor firme din Romania sau Bulgaria.
La fabrica daneza Danish Crown, liderul european al preparatelor din carne de porc, muncitorii germani cu vechime sunt platiti intre 2500 si 3000 de euro brut pe luna, in timp ce angajatii romani castiga intre 700 de euro (femeile) si 900 de euro (barbatii) pentru 10-12 de ore de munca zilnic, de cele mai multe ori in schimbul de noapte. Muncitorii romani sunt cazati in dormitoare comune, in camere de 10 sau 14 paturi, amenajate in foste magazine de confectii – « privilegiu » pentru care platesc intre 150 si 175 de euro pe luna fiecare. Situatia lor sociala a ajuns atat de grava incat biserica si opinia publica din zona a inceput sa protesteze impotriva exploatarii lor in conditii de sclavie industriala, asa cum sustin sindicalistii germani.
Aceste rele tratamente sunt posibile deoarece, spre deosebire de Franta sau Anglia, in Germania nu exista inca un salariu minim garantat care sa ii protejeze pe angajatii romani. Mai grav, in urma reformelor sociale din timpul lui Gerhard Schröder (2004-2008), Germania are astazi 22.2 la suta din salariati incadrati in categoria celor cu venituri precare (proportia este de 6.7 la suta in Franta). Aproximativ 7.4 milioane de germani sunt angajati in «mini-jobs » fiind platiti cu numai 400 de euro pe luna. Pentru asemenea bani, niciun tanar german nu mai doreste sa munceasca in abatoarele de cosmar din nord, unde romanilor li se pretinde sa sacrifice 600 de porci pe ora, sau 7000 de porci pe zi pentru enorma suma de 1 cent per porc.
O asemenea exploatare salbatica a romanilor in strainatate nu ar fi avut loc daca, de la revolutie incoace, guvernele succesive din Romania ar fi impus o marire constanta a salariilor in vederea reducerii diferentelor dintre nivelul de salarizare a romanilor si media europeana. In aceeasi perioada, vecinii nostri cehi, maghiari, slovaci sau polonezi au gasit cai de crestere a salariului mediu, care sa se apropie acum, in majoritatea cazurilor, de 1000 de euro pe luna. Spre deosebire de acestia, adevarati « fericiti ai tranzitiei », romanii sunt in continuare fortati de conditiile vitrege de acasa sa plece sa lucreze in strainatate, ajungand in situatii asemanatoare cu cele descrise mai sus. In ceea ce ii priveste pe bulgari , veniturile insuficiente i-au impins pe multi sa-si dea foc in fata cladirilor guvernului din Sofia. Ambele guverne, atat cel roman cat si cel bulgar, practica in schimb dumping-ul fiscal * si prefera sa isi impinga cetatenii sa lucreze aiurea prin Europa, in loc sa ii forteze pe oamenii de afaceri locali sa le asigure conditii de munca si de salarizare decente.
*Romania are o cota unica de impozitare de numai 16%, in timp ce Bulgaria incearca sa atraga investitori straini cu o cota unica de impozitare de 10% (sursa : The Economist). Aceste politici fiscale sunt in contradictie cu ceea ce se intampla astazi in majoritatea tarilor Uniunii, unde se revine la impozitul progresiv pe venit.
Sindicalistii germani considera ca romanii si bulgarii care lucreaza in industria agroalimentara germana au fost redusi la conditia de sclavi industriali.
Since its reunification 22 years ago, Germany has become the leading economic power in Europe. The sovereign debt crisis has offered it the opportunity to translate economic might into political clout within the EU. Problem is, as the austerity policies currently ravaging the continent illustrate, German politicians – from both the right and the New Left – are rather ill-prepared for such a responsible role.
This assessment belongs to former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who in 2011 cautioned his party and conationals against issuing economic diktats and against insensitivity to the plight of other, economically less fortunate, EU members (speech re-published by Alternatives Economiques in 2012). He mentioned the fact that the German trade surplus had been obtained at the expense of other countries’ deficits. (Gerhard Schröder labour market reforms prevent Germany from acting as consumer of last resort in Europe, as the purchasing power of millions of Germans has suffered severe reductions over the past few years. The current leadership’s refusal to introduce a minimum hourly wage and its insistence on the imposition of draconian austerity packages in Southern Europe have greatly unsettled a majority of its partners within the Union).
In this election year, German politicians would therefore be wise to keep in mind Helmut Schmidt’s sensible advice:
“Taking into account our central geopolitical position, our unfortunate role in European history until the middle of the 20th century, as well as our current economic performance, the German government has to take the particular care of the interests of our European partners. Such altruism is indispensable.”
For a few weeks in April, Kim Jong-un has suceeded in making North Korea the hottest flashpoint on the planet. However, even as the international media was focusing on the war of words and the military posturing, inside North Korea significant changes were afoot.
According to Andrei Lankov, a Russian specialist on the Korean peninsula, “many superior officers of the North Korean army have been dismissed. The army has fallen under the control of civilian bureaucrats” (Rossiyskaia Gazeta). Korean Workers’ Party official Choe Ryong Hae was promoted Vice Marshall, ahead of career officers in line for the position – and the case is not singular. The army ranks have also been purged: of the four generals who carried Kim Jong-il’s coffin, three have vanished from public life without a trace and the fourth was given a minor civilian job. The same source states that the biggest surprise of the season was the return of Pak Pong-ju – a reformer previously fired by Kim Jong-il in 2005 – to the post of prime minister.
Taken together, all these changes could signal a desire to promote a Chinese-style version of modernisation in North Korea. Unlike China in the ’80s, however, which had been forced to create special economic zones in order to attract western foreign investment, North Korea might instead prefer to develop its backward economy with the help of major Chinese firms currently afflicted by the rising costs of domestic labour.
The replacement of the regime’s military cronies with civilians and the launch of another reformist drive seems a likely explanation as to why Kim Jong-un thought it appropriate to use threats of nuclear retaliation and to play the external menace card. If successful, the new political course could lead to diminished tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond.
At the periphery of the European Union, two candidates for membership are trying to hedge their geopolitical bets.
Turkey, the largest of the two, is a long-standing NATO member but has also gained recently ” dialogue partner “status within SCO (Shanghai Co-operation Organization) , which includes China, Russia and four of the “five stans”. While some Western analysts consider Turkey’s SCO membership bid as a bluff used by Ankara in order to speed up EU accession talks, insiders claim that the move is intended to bring in line its military alliances with the country’s new geopolitical agenda, as well as to secure access to the oil and gas reserves from Central Asia. On the 29th of April 2013 Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Dmitry Mezentsev has stated that the “dialogue partner” status given to Turkey would make the organization more influential. ( as quoted by Turkish Weekly )
Mezentsev’s positive remarks came after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu commented on further Turkish-SCO cooperation on Friday. “ We declare our destiny to be the same as that of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries,” . (Today’s Zaman )
The same negotiating difficulties with the EU determined Serbia to apply for membership within the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization ) , a military alliance founded in 1992 by Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Serbia obtained candidate status last year and was given observer status as of April the 11 this year. According to general Leonid Ivachov, former director of international military co-operation within Russia’s defense ministry, Serbia’s possible membership of the CSTO “ represents a breakthrough for Russia and its allies, which will help it defend its geopolitical interests in Southern Europe “. (Nezavissimaia Gazeta from Moscow, as quoted by Courrier International ) According to Ivachov, Serbia’s membership also gives Russia the possibility to deploy in the Balkans peace keeping forces and to extend to Belgrade military aid on very favorable terms.
Meanwhile, both Serbia and Turkey continue to negotiate with Brussels and are making sustained political efforts to mend fences with the Kossovars and the Kurds, respectively.
François Hollande, the French president, is currently back from a state visit to China. Hollande hopes to expand trade in Asia, as France’s current account deficit has reached 75 billion euros, a third of which is with the Middle Kingdom.
His task has been made difficult by the recent history of French-Chinese relations. In 2008, former president Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama in Paris, angering the Beijing leadership. He had also threatened to boycott the 2008 Beijing olympic games, with catastrophic results at the time for French companies such as Carrefour operating in China. Commercial relations have suffered in the medium term as a result, as well. Thus, if Germany exported 2 million Volkswagen in China in 2011, during the same period Citroen exported only 44,000 cars, and Renault even less .
Although led by Christian Democrats, Germany has avoided mixing trade with religion and international relations, careful not to offend one of its main trading partners. This businesslike approach might even inspire president Obama in future . (for details, click HERE )
Over the past few years, Europeans have been bombarded with media accounts of the so-called “ German miracle” and the role of Schroeder’s Agenda 2010 in generating it.
Guillaume Duval, editor-in-chief of Alternatives Economiques (France) has recently published a book on the subject, “ MADE IN GERMANY : Le modèle Allemand au-delà des mythes “. An engineer with years of work experience in Germany, Duval considers the claim that Agenda 2010 was responsible for Germany’s current economic health as bogus. According to him, factors like the unique structure of German industry, strong syndicates, good vocational training , lack of a real estate bubble and a very favorable international context ( the opening up of Eastern European markets, the strong growth in China and Latin America ) were instead instrumental in Germany’s good economic performance.
Schroeder’s measures – reduction of companies’ fiscal contributions,the lowering of unemployment benefits, of medical coverage for employees, reduction of pensions, etc – have in fact weakened the long -term prospects of the German economy and greatly increased poverty and income inequalities . The dire situation of pensioners, for example, has alarmed in 2012 Ursula von der Leyden, the current German labour minister. According to calculations made by her ministry’s experts, even employees who currently earn 2500 euros per month, working the mandatory 35 years before retiring, will collect a monthly pension of only 688 euros in 2030…
You could also read my post on this subject on Europe’s World by clicking HERE:
For almost two years now I have avoided dealing on my blog with China’s spats with Japan, its tensions with ASEAN partners or its apparent inability to reign in the excesses of its obstreperous North Korean protégé.
Although China is fast becoming an economic superpower, its foreign policy has remained far less successful than its economic performance. The seeming lack of interest among top Chinese leaders in framing a foreign policy to match their country’s economic might and long-term strategic objectives is disquieting. Their failure to deal with rather minor territorial disputes successfully could indeed jeopardise China’s economic agenda in the long run, as well as undermine stability and prosperity in Asia.
One of China’s leading objectives, for example, had been that of creating by 2015 a common Asian market, emulating the European Union. These days, however, tensions in the South China Sea between it, on the one hand, and Vietnam and the Philippines, on the other, are endangering its economic integration agenda with ASEAN. In fact, had the European Union’s integration model been studied more carefully by the Chinese, they would have noticed that in Europe the process started with France and Germany putting behind them their long-running territorial disputes and deciding to share resources essential to growth, like coal and iron.
The gap that has developed between China’s long-term integration objectives and its rather medieval attitudes in dealing with neighbours and their territorial claims has instead played into the hands of the US, not otherwise known for excellence in the field of diplomacy.
As cheque-book diplomacy or old-style kowtow policies are inappropriate for China’s current status even in our post-modern times, the new Chinese leadership should urgently seek to frame a foreign policy which closely matches their country’s long-term interests and its standing in Asia.
After more than four years of misguided austerity policies, the sharp economic downturn is about to claim its latest victims – Europe’s democracies.
During the sovereign debt crisis, politicians in office – regardless of party ideology – have been forced to resort to hugely unpopular budget cuts and to increase taxes for the middle and working classes. These pro-cyclical policies have generated massive unemployment, leading to street protests, with no change in sight however. Nowadays, major economies like France have stopped growing altogether, whereas Italy, the European Union’s third largest economy, faces its second year of negative growth.
More importantly, the political fall-out could bring about a second implosion of democracies in Europe. Disillusioned with traditional political parties on the left or on the right, European voters in search of solutions are turning to extremist and populist parties, when they bother to vote at all. Thus in Belgium, for instance, the polity has failed to form a government for more than a year; the recent Italian parliamentary elections have ended up in deadlock; and even in France – where the socialists won a clear majority in 2012 at local, regional as well as national level – the popularity of the government is below 30 percent. In Spain, the ruling conservative party can hardly muster more than 25 percent of voting intentions, with the socialist opposition faring worse than that. The same is true for EU members like Bulgaria and Portugal, countries nevertheless hailed as “successful” pupils of the troika.
The breakdown in the social and political consensus in all these countries is the logical result of the tax avoidance strategy adopted during the last few decades by the top 10 percent of income earners, companies and individuals alike. Through what have become known as “tax optimisation” practices, a full one third of the global GDP has been tucked away in some 60 tax havens around the world. This has provoked serious budget shortfalls for many EU member states, which the adoption of austerity policies has only aggravated.
Depriving states of much-needed revenue has ben made possible by favourable laws regarding tax shelters and by the milking of tax loopholes, essentially benefitting the rich. This has enabled the European Union’s largest banks such as Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas or Credit Agricole to offer their customers the option to avoid paying taxes, by facilitating the opening of offshore bank accounts on their behalf. If we add to this lax or almost inexistent (in the case of Greece) tax collection by fiscal authorities, we could better grasp why and how the sovereign debt crisis came about.
The recent scandal involving the French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac illustrates how fiscal laxity is made possible. Himself the holder of an undeclared Swiss bank account, Cahuzac was supposed to enforce the collection of some 60 billion euros in unpaid taxes per year, representing two thirds of the country’s budget deficit. In practice, however, French fiscal authorities are only able to collect between 10 and 15 billion euros of this sum in a given year. This has pushed the government to impose additional taxes on the hapless other 90 percent of the population, weighing down on those not fortunate enough to benefit from offshore banking services. Across Europe – in Germany for example – similar, meagre tax recovery rates are the norm, leaving VAT collection to make up the bulk of states’ fiscal revenues.
Economists are fond of looking up to northern EU members like Sweden or Denmark, as models of competitive economies. In reality, if we are to avoid another imminent implosion of democracy on our continent, the rest of the Union should emulate the Scandinavian countries for their clean, transparent and efficient political establishments. Failing this, we will witness the rise to power of populist and extremist parties – a process that has already begun in earnest. Start collecting back taxes now !
Now that Cyprus has ceased to be an offshore financial centre, Martin Schulz and his colleagues have the opportunity to go a step further and tackle the issue of unpaid corporate taxes within the European Union over the past ten years. According to The Economist, the amount of money spirited away by corporations avoiding taxes has reached the staggering global figure of 20.000 billion dollars, deposited in some 60 financial havens.
National EU governments are powerless to redress such massive tax avoidance practices that currently cause mass unemployment and a dearth of financial resources for their treasuries. Corporations , especially from outside of Europe, have been quick to speculate national politicians’ desire to attract FDI, and have extracted unreasonable concessions from them for establishing operations within the EU.
To contain the public’s outrage, gimmicks like the ones employed by premier David Cameron in Britain – getting some US corporations like Starbucks or Apple to make symbolic financial contributions – are simply not acceptable anymore. Such policies will do nothing to deter corporations, which make their profits off the backs of EU consumers and governments, to renounce their massive tax avoidance schemes in the future.
The European Parliament could thus impose a flat 30 percent tax rate on profits made within the EU and deposited offshore by European, Japanese or US corporations. This rate of taxation could subsequently be adopted as the EU-wide minimal norm.
The sums involved in the recovery of back taxes could be as high as 3.000 billion euros, to be collected by national governments. Some of the money thus recovered could go towards shoring up the EU budget and enhancing the pool of money available to the European Stability Mechanism, enabling the latter to deal with problems experienced by countries like Italy. This prevents the tendency of some governments to want to impose top tax rates of 75 percent or more. By the same token, the European Parliament could forbid countries such as Ireland to act as tax avoidance hosts in keeping their corporate taxes exceedingly low. Finally, the European Parliament is the right institution to legislate and mandate member states to : collect corporate taxes there where profits are being made; outlaw transfer pricing and other tax avoidance techniques; and eliminate tax loopholes from national member-states’ legislation.
To be sure, this is no easy undertaking, but in these disastrous economic circumstances exceptional measures are needed, if we are to avoid the implosion of democracy and the parallel rise of populist and fascist parties in Europe.
The days of Cyprus as an offshore banking centre for rich Russians or Britons are well and truly over. All things considered, however, the 30 billion dollars held by them in Cypriot bank accounts is a paltry amount next to the 20 trillion dollars held by Western corporations and individuals in some 60 fiscal havens. ( The Economist)
For a while now, the G20 political leaders have been promising concerted action against these tax shelters. So far, nothing of substance happened, though such bellicose declarations make for great television .The absence of results in this area will irreparably damage the reputation of concerned politicians, highlighting their utter impotence .
Consider for a moment Apple, for instance. The US corporation holds in its treasury no less than 147 billion dollars. For years, its directors refused to distribute dividends to shareholders, let alone pay normal tax rates. The iconic i-pod and i-phone manufacturer builds them cheaply in China; distributes them at premium prices in the West and stashes away the profits on an island .
Bare a few exceptions, this new breed of entrepreneurs and corporate top brass are, at best, a mixed blessing for the global economy. Sure, a large quantity of consumer goods are being produced and sold around the world. But who benefits from it all? Certainly not the workers, the host states or the consumers . If Henry Ford believed a corporation should pay decent enough wages to workers, to enable them to buy the goods being produced, no such scruples bother today’s business leaders; A large amount of corporate time and money is being devoted instead on devising ways to avoid taxes, circumvent national legislations or fight in court against fines imposed on their excesses in some parts of the world, notably in the European Union
These regressive ways of doing business are mainly responsible for the high unemployment rates in the West, a dearth of financial resources affecting governments, weather rich or poor, and low growth rates, even as enormous amounts of unspent cash sit idle in fiscal havens. Not surprisingly, many leading economists believe that this harmful form of capitalism has to end, although there is not yet a consensus as to how. Failing this, we may very well witness the implosion of the whole system as we knew it for the past few hundred years.