EU rebellion: Austria and Hungary reject Brussels’ plot for EU-wide wage plot

Von der Leyen says world is 'full of contradictions and conflict'

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The proposal, introduced at the latest EU social summit in Porto, was promptly rejected by Austria and Hungary as ill-advised due to large differences in the level of development between EU states.

EU heads of state and government met in the Portuguese city on Friday to discuss the bloc’s social affairs strategy for the next decade.

Speaking to media after talks with Austrian Labour Minister Martin Kocher over the weekend, Hungarian minister Laszlo Palkovics said the two countries will “accept the basic principles and will take the methods into consideration, but will not accept this area being taken away from member states”.

A few days ahead of the summit, Mr Kocher of the Austrian People’s Party said the EU lacks competence in the area of labour policy and therefore his government could not accept giving away its sovereign powers to decide on such an issue.

Mr Palkovics also noted Hungary was opposed to a unified European tax system.

According to the Hungarian stance, control over raising certain types of tax should stay with member states to accommodate “diverse levels of development and economic structures”, he said.

Should, however, the EU decide to unify the system, “a number of adjustment tools are available”, he said.

Speaking at the summit, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The (pandemic) recovery is still in an early stage.

“This very important social summit comes at the absolutely right time, we’ve been through a very tough year.”

She added social challenges including work, training and fighting poverty need to be an “absolute priority” and show that “Europe can deliver”.

The summit was also met by huge protests in the Portuguese city.

At least 3000 protesters took part in demonstrations against the European Union’s failure to ensure citizens of the bloc are employed and out of poverty.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa had stated on multiple occasions the Porto social summit was meant to reassure Europeans.

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Instead, protesters said they were disappointed by Brussels’ inability to keep its promises.

Isabel Camarinha, secretary-general of the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, CGTP, which organised Saturday’s protest, said: “The workers feel the necessary answers have not been given.

“We have to fight against this policy of low salaries, poverty and the deteriorating public services.”

On the first day of the summit, EU leaders discussed US President Joe Biden’s proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

But five European Union countries distanced themselves from the US leader’s idea.

Experts said waivers could take years to negotiate, and would not address the immediate need to manufacture more doses fast.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on entering the talks: “What is the current issue? It is not really about intellectual property.

“Can you give intellectual property to laboratories that do not know how to produce and will not produce tomorrow?

“The main issue for solidarity is the distribution of doses.”

He added France was working hand in hand with Germany on the issue.

Berlin expressed its opposition to the idea on Thursday.

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