MEP Konstantina Kouneva (Former Trade Unionist) Again Takes Action Against the European Patent Office for Union-Busting Actions
Konstantina Kouneva in 2015, photograph courtesy of Left.gr
Summary: Bulgarian-Greek politician Konstantina Kouneva (or Kostadinka Kuneva) is getting actively involved in EPO affairs once again, in order to support and protect unionists like she once was (before entering politics)
THE political interventions right now, e.g. [1, 2], are part of a much broader thing. After intimidation against delegates the delegates have been a lot more receptive to critics. Battistelli and his team are rapidly alienating everyone in the Office and everyone in the Organisation, too. Politicians too are starting to weigh in and they are not afraid because they’re no longer a vocal minority. Quite a few politicians in quite a few countries speak out in unison about EPO abuses. It is becoming the norm, so Battistelli's efforts to isolate and attack them individually won’t work. Battistelli et al are on the retreat right now and criticising them is a safe thing to do. It’s a smart (political) career move.
“Quite a few politicians in quite a few countries speak out in unison about EPO abuses. It is becoming the norm, so Battistelli’s efforts to isolate and attack them individually won’t work.”“FYI,” told us one reader today, “The Greek MEP Konstantina Kouneva (also known as Kostadinka Kuneva) has just issued a statement in Greek about the EPO.”
English translation of:
«Να πάρουν θέση τα κράτη μέλη του Ευρωπαϊκού Οργανισμού Ευρεσιτεχνίας»
30 January 2016
K. Kuneva MEP
“The Member States’ of the European Patent Organisation must take a stand”
Staff of the EPO trade union react to persecution with large demonstrations in The Hague and Munich.
Yesterday (28 January) over 900 employees of the European Patent Organisation Employees (EPO) participated in a demonstration organized by their union (SUEPO) in the Dutch city center. The demonstration was the response of the union to an unprecedented attack which had been unleashed by the administration of EPO on trade union rights and staff representatives which culminated in the dismissal of two elected union officials and the downgrading of a third from the EPO’s main office in Munich.
A similar demonstration in Munich on 20 January was a huge success and well- attended by EPO staff.
It noted that the European Patent Organisation (European Patent Office) employs approximately 7,500 employees in offices in five European cities with the largest number of employed in The Hague (approximately 2,500) and Munich. It examines and grants thousands of patents from industries responsible for 40% of the EU GDP and 35% of employment. In 2014 it received 274 174 applications for patents amounting to an increase of around 3.1% from the previous year.
Led by the current President, Battistelli, as part of its strategy to promote institutional reform of the organisation with the stated aim of improving quality and reducing costs, in 2010 the EPO commenced a concerted campaign of violating trade union rights, terrorising, intimidating and persecuting its staff. The most tragic consequences of the climate of oppression which prevails are the five suicides of employees which occurred over the last three years.
Despite the appeals of the employees to justice (both Dutch and German courts), the administration of the EPO hides behind the mantle of the judicial immunity of international organizations, so as not to be held accountable to anyone for the violation of fundamental rights at the heart of Europe.
Konstantina Kuneva submitted a question on this subject to the European Parliament which was signed by 14 MEPs from many countries and many political groups.
The attempted changes in the institutional framework and operation of the EPO, along with the promotion of the Unitary Patent and Unitary Patent Court, bear obvious similarities to the secretive consultations surrounding TTIP and ISDS [the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and associated Investor-State Dispute Settlement for resolving disputes between investors and states] and reveal the strategy of the EU leadership and business lobby for the empowerment of fully autonomous organizations which operate beyond the pale of any democratic institutional framework and are characterised by intransparency, secrecy and immunity.
To this end it is considered necessary on the one hand to restrict the applicability of national regulations and on the other hand to eliminate democratic workers’ rights (fundamental labour standards, trade union rights, etc.) which are regarded as a “bureaucratic hindrance” to opening up new markets for transnational conglomerates.
In response to the demonstrations in The Hague and Munich, SYRIZA MEP Konstantina Kuneva said: “The workers EPO in Munich and The Hague deserve for their impressive mobilisation and vigorous defence of their rights. The situation has now gone out of control. The intransparent governance, authoritarianism and immunity of “autonomous” international organizations, must end. The governments of the Member States which are represented on the Administrative Council of the EPO must finally take a stand against the violation of trade union rights and the employment rights of staff.”
“FYI,” added the same reader, “here is the link to the question submitted to the European Parliament by Kostadinka Kuneva and other MEPs in May 2015.” The question from Kuneva is mentioned above.
To quote the whole thing (public domain probably), which we quoted only in part at the time:
The Dutch appeal court recently ruled (case number 200.141.812/01/17-2-2015) that the European Patent Organisation (EPO) violated workers’ labour rights deriving from the EU Treaties and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Consequently the Dutch court, exceptionally, has not accepted the immunity EPO enjoys as an international organisation, since this immunity cannot allow for human rights violations. Nevertheless EPO declared it would ignore the ruling pleading execution immunity.
— Does the Commission agree with this ruling, according to which, as regards guaranteeing fundamental rights, the EU Treaties and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prevail over bilateral and multilateral agreements, including those providing immunity to organisations such as the EPO?
— If so, what does it intend to do to prevent the abuse of immunity rights and defend the EU citizens’ and employees’ rights and the community acquis in organisations such as EPO which while exercising judicial functions is at the same time breaching the European legal order rules?
— How does the Commission scrutinise that the positions EU Member States’ representatives take in the administration of EPO are compatible with the rights enshrined in the EU Treaties and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights — taking into account that the EU Member States constitute the majority in the organisation?
There are more political actions, but we’ll leave them masked for the time being. █
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.”