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10 February 2019

Rutte misses another chance to end the farce of EP's monthly Strasbourg trips

Last Thursday the Dutch Parliament held a debate, in the presence of a number of MEPs, on the State of the Union. During the debate I issued a strongly-worded call for Prime Minister Rutte to work with President Macron to find at last a solution to the monthly displacement of the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg, which costs the European taxpayer fully €200 million per year. There have recently been fresh proposals, notably from the German liberal party the FDP, to establish a new training institute for European diplomats, a creative idea that I have been pleased to embrace, putting forward a motion to that effect. Rutte's reaction was non-existent. As usual, he did not agree with the idea, making this the umpteenth missed opportunity.

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3 February 2019

European political parties – an ill-conceived system

Once every five years they awake, the European political parties, in the runup to the European elections. They choose their lead candidates and in a number of cases draw up 'platforms' the planks of which must be adopted by all of the affiliated national parties in their own European election manifestos. In the lead candidates, whose goal is to become Commission president, we have little interest, but neither would we like to think that our election manifesto was being determined in part by a European party of this kind. We'd rather leave that to our members. That's what's known as democracy, something which is missing from these European parties, most of which allow only national parties to be members, not individuals, a strange construction indeed.

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27 January 2019

Values, European or Universal?

Now that the knives are being sharpened for the European election campaigns, I'm struck by the way that the liberals, with people like Macron and Verhofstadt to the fore, are claiming that they want to defend 'European values', in particular from the populists. This is all a bit cheap and also dangerous. Cheap, because it's the (neo-)liberals who have left people to their fate with their striving for unbridled marketisation and budget fetishism which have led to the destruction of services in, for example, health care, education and the law. Dangerous too, because traditionally Europe has always sought universal values, human rights which are valid everywhere. Evidently the liberals have now withdrawn from this struggle in the belief that Europe knows better than the rest of the world, That is to misjudge decades of international negotiations in primarily the Council of Europe and the UN.

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21 January 2019

We don't need the European Commission to combat child poverty

Foto: SP

This week the European Parliament voted to approve a new European Social Fund that will cost more than €120 billion in the period from 2021 to 2027. The PvdA – the Dutch Labour Party – via a tweet from their MEP Agnes Jongerius - found it necessary to 'denounce' the SP for voting against this fund, including the €6 billion to fight child poverty, a vote which she found odd. I'll gladly pick up this gauntlet, not via a similarly childish tweet (although my fingers itched to do just that), but in my weekly blog.

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13 January 2019

How important are human rights?

It's no coincidence that well-informed journalists such as Bas Heijne and Hella Hueck are drawing attention to the damage which has been done in recent decades by the sacred belief in the market, the way in which people feel insecure, rejected and in competition with everyone else, a struggle which they think they will lose. It's time therefore to look for the tools to give people hope of a victory. In this context could the international human rights treaties add another strand, obliging everyone to take account of the interests of others? My answer is that they could not exactly do this, but they could certainly help.

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6 January 2019

European Parliament can't get enough luxury buildings

 Yellow jackets, Brexit, European elections : you'd expect the European Parliament to have become a little more reasoable, even humble, in relation to the citizenry of the member states. But when you consider the policy regarding their own buildings, there's not much sign of that. Expensive information offices in exclusive locations in every member state, and in Brussels, the purchase of the House of European History and of the Solvay Library, rebuilding and thorough renovation of the Paul Henri Spaak building, and to cap the lot a cool €3 million for guest accommodation at the Jean Monnet House in the region of Versailles. As a member of the Committee on Budgetary Control I'll be focusing on this behaviour worthy of the Sun King, and absolutely unworthy of people's representatives.

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1 January 2019

2019 – the year of truth?

It's January 1st, the day we recuperate and look to the future. And for the SP's group in the European Parliament that means rounding off ongoing tasks and getting ready for May's European elections. And we're not the only ones to whom this applies. French President Immanuel Macron and Dutch European Commissioner Frans Timmermans have for weeks been busily constructing their profiles. Over one thing they are in passionate agreement: these European elections will pose the question of whether they can keep the European Union out of the hands of the populists or will see it smashed to pieces. But don't be fooled. It's not a matter of whether the the EU will survive, but of whether we can free it from the yoke of the multinationals under the weight of which it has bowed for so many decades. The real conflict is not over whether we like the EU or not, but about whether we can get it to work in the interests of ordinary people. For that to happen,the power of the multinationals and of the Eurocrats must first be broken.

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19 December 2018

The Euro is going to cost us a lot of money - and democracy as well

This week it was announced that France's President Macron is going to get at least part of his way. There will be no separate budget for the countries in the eurozone, but money will be set aside for the zone's weaker members. As usual, the Dutch government has swept the decision under the carpet. The euro was introduced without anyone explaining to the public what it would in reality mean, and now the ongoing transfer of money from the richer to the poorer eurozone countries is being pushed through without any effort having to be made. That's dangerous, not only for our wallets but for our democracy, too.

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10 December 2018

The people are roused into action, the European Parliament turns its back

I know: everyone's now writing about the Gilets Jaunes, the 'Yellow Vests' in France, but I can't avoid doing so. Though I wrote just two weeks ago an article for our party magazine comparing the merrily dancing europhile students to the heated atmosphere amongst the 90%, the growing protests of the Yellow Vests have exploded into life rather sooner than I had expected. And of course the European Union is a factor in this. With 100% support from the member state governments who are just as responsible for this, the EU has pursued a policy dictated by the multinationals. In France the dancing students have been suddenly replaced by large numbers of other students angered by the spending cuts and commercialisation affecting education. This is thanks to the EU which since the Bologna Declaration of 1999 have advocated the 'reform', and therefore the selling off, of education.

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