Polish plumbers

Philippe Riboton

FOLLOWING THE RESULTS of the French referendum on May 29, Czech media have been pretty keen on pointing at the French “no” and its possible implications for the ratification process of the European constitution. Yet in most cases they have failed at undercovering the key figure that has crystallized the fear and anger of the average Mr. Durand. Quite surprisingly, this was not the president of the European Commission nor even the French president. No, the central character that made the French set a bomb that will apparently leave a bolder mark in history than the nuclear tests they have been running for years in the Pacific Ocean is called the “Polish Plumber.” Although it may sound like a nice title for a Hollywood thriller, “the Polish Plumber” is no joke: it is the manifestation of the latest French hysteria against European enlargement, which on May 1st, 2004 saw the Poles as well as the Czechs and eight other nationalities join the EU bandwagon. God only knows if any French have ever met a Polish Plumber – most probably they have come across more Czech automotive engineers or Slovak IT specialists in their professional dealings. Never mind: the Polish Plumber is here to represent the jobs the French think they will lose if new members from central Europe enter the employment game. Which comes as no surprise when one remembers that the French are part of this club that set up an embargo (although temporary) against job-seekers from new country members accessing the French workplace. To put it simply, the Polish Plumber sends the message to the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians (among others) that they are not really welcome to work in the “homeland for human rights”. At a time thousands of French and other Europeans are losing their jobs because their employers are delocalizing their manufacturing facilities further East, the Polish Plumber demonstrates that the great idea of a European job market definitely has a serious problem in its pipes.






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