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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"No Bolkestein" Say what?

The sign outside the new Testaccio market said, "No Bolkestein."  What?  What could that mean? 


If you spend much time around Rome's public markets, you'll see more of those "No Bolkestein" signs.  Here's some background:  The phrase refers to Fritz Bolkestein, a former commissioner of the European Union.  In 2006, Bolkestein issued an EU directive designed to create a "free market" for certain services, including food trucks, public markets stalls, and beach concessions.  As Bolkestein saw it, services were monopolized or controlled by only a few organizations or families, which held long-term licenses (some for 10 years) that were automatically renewable.  Competition, he claimed, was stifled. 
The sign on the truck, parked at an open-air market in the Val Malaina/Serpentara neighborhood, might be translated "Get Bolkestein out of the markets" 
As we understand it, Fritz Bolkestein had the authority to issue the directive, but it had to be implemented by national, regional, and local governments.  In 2010, The Italian government implemented at least parts of the directive, applying it to beach concessions and "ambulanti"--that is, licensed street sellers. Under the new regulations, street seller licenses would not automatically be renewed. 


New regulations for beach concessions proved especially unpopular among those already licensed to operate such concessions.  They argued that the Bolkestein directive would change a locally grown, "Made-in-Italy" brand of "beach tourism" into "beach supermarkets" controlled by multinational corporations and foreign investors. 


In Rome,  anti-Bolkestein protests began in 2005, anticipating the proclamation of the directive; some 50,000 workers participated in a demonstration that year.  Street traders again took to the streets--to Piazza della Repubblica, actually--in September 2016.
The No Bolkestein protest march, Piazza della
Repubblica, 2016.  The sign in the middle photo reads
"Salviamo Mercati" (let's save the markets).
Newly elected Rome mayor Virginia Raggi--the local leader of the anti-government party M5S (Movimento Cinque Stelle, 5 Star) was behind the No Bolkestein movement.  Under Raggi's leadership, the Rome council approved (31-7) her motion to postpone the implementation of the Bolkestein directive--indeed, all directives designed to increase competition in the services sector.  The council vote included extending trading licenses for stands to 2020.  Although it looks like Raggi's initiative was intended to help individual small businesses, in fact a majority of Rome's food trucks were (and are) owned by one family group: the Tredicine. 
Bill

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