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Europe

Cleavage vs. Health in EU Sunburn Dispute

As EU officials get ready to vote on legislation to protect workers from the sun Wednesday, the battle over bare skin and sunscreen has already heated up.

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The new rules could affect her

European Union lawmakers clashed Tuesday over proposals for new EU laws to protect workers from sunburn, with critics slamming them as an "absurd" attempt to over-regulate people's lives and defenders pointing out that skin cancer rates had risen sharply in some countries.

While leftists backed the plans to help fight cancer, the debate also saw some light-hearted exchanges, after it was suggested that the regulations could have an impact on the amount of cleavage on display by German waitresses.

"Should employers provide sunscreen? Should they provide sunglasses? This is no task for the EU," said Liberal Democratic lawmaker Liz Lynne, in the debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The EU legislature is due to vote Wednesday on the draft laws presented last year by the European Commission, which seek to impose a series of obligations on employers.

"Absurd obligations"

The European Builders' Confederation (EBC) notably wants the EU parliament to leave it up to national governments to decide what obligations to impose on employers to protect their workers.

Bauarbeiterdemonstration in Berlin

Maybe they will protest wearing their shirts next

"This kind of legislation is the perfect example of absurd obligations employers have to comply with, and a clear hindrance of employment development in small and medium-sized enterprises," said EBC head Jean Lardin.

Some members of parliament need no convincing. "Why do we in this House continue to bring ridicule on ourselves by promoting such egregious measures as this one?" said British conservative Roger Helmer.

Hungarian member of parliament Csaba Ory stressed that EU-wide rules were unworkable, given the different weather across the 25-nation EU. "Clearly there are different levels of sunlight in Sweden and Spain, in Greece and Germany," he said.

"A cynical campaign"

But leftists in the EU assembly denounced what they said was a "cynical campaign" mounted by critics of proposals aimed at protecting workers from skin cancer.

Jean Claude Juncker

Some EU laws go too far, many parliamentarians say

"This is all contemptible nonsense," said British socialist Stephen Hughes, who said that cases of skin cancer in the United Kingdom have doubled in 25 years, and now number more than in Australia.

Helmer noted that in Germany media have mocked it because of its effect on Bavarian barmaids' bosoms, while in Britain the press have poked fun at it because it restricts bare-backed building workers.

"I accept that a brickie's cleavage is not a pretty sight, but we have no business in this House making rules about it," he said. "When will we start to treat European citizens like grown-ups, able to make their own decision?"

And he added: "Sadly, I have not been approached by any Bavarian barmaids, but my door is always open should they wish to see me."

Speaking for the proposals, Hughes slammed euroskeptic media and rightwing politicians who he said were "hell-bent on misrepresenting important health and safety legislation."

"When we worked on industrial noise they invented the claim that we wanted to ban bagpipes in Scotland," he said.

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