14 April 2019
Next week is the last Strasbourg week before the European elections. The working week begins Monday evening with two hearings on, respectively, conflicts of interest and political appointments, both in the presence of Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Günther Oettinger. The name connected to the issue of conflict of interest is that of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, into whose company Agrofert EU moneys have flowed. As for political appointments, we are of course thinking of the appointment of Martin Selmayr to the post of Secretary-General of the European Commission, though there have also been dodgy goings-on in the Parliament itself. In short, controversial matters. But what has the EP done? The decision has been to hold the hearings behind closed doors. Evidently there's a lot to hide, but I'll be certainly be protesting this secrecy during the hearings.
7 April 2019
European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is out campaigning. Trekking from town to town he clearly has less time for his own work at the European Commission. The rules do allow Commissioners to campaign for the European elections, but they must first have completed their own work. And in the case of the Lobby Register, it's clear that Timmermans hasn't. Instead of taking part in decisive negotiations with the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers in the week beginning April 15th, Timmermans is crying off. He claims that this is because he isn't happy with the position adopted by the EP and the Council, though the Parliament negotiators say that he's simply being obstructive. And this is the Commissioner who always prides himself on his fight for more transparency. That image has now gone for good. At decisive moments he always lets it drop.
24 March 2019
Sometimes it's a simple matter deciding which way to vote in the European Parliament. If the matter at hand concerns neoliberal proposals for liberalisation and privatisation, for example, in general we'd be against. Sometimes, however, it's a great deal more difficult. Whichever way you vote, the outcome is never perfect. That is the case with the directive on authors' rights. The SP wants to see the internet being as free as possible, but we also want artists and writers to be fairly rewarded for their creativity. After studying the issue in depth and consulting all sorts of experts, we have decided to vote for the protection of artists, including for material which can be found on sites such as Youtube.
17 March 2019
On 12th March a delegation of young climate activists – they call themselves 'the truants' – came to the meeting of our group, the GUE-NGL or United Left, in Strasbourg. It was impressive, and not only because because the youth movement is growing ever bigger and ever more international, but above all also because some of these young people had worked out that a transformation of the system would be needed if a fist is to be made of the fight against the warming of the earth's climate. “Of course we's rather not travel by plane, but as long as the train is many times dearer, what do you want us to do? Our whole economic system is unfit for purpose.”
10 March 2019
Our mailboxes are filling up with emails. This is the result of an action this Tuesday in Strasbourg encouraging a vote against the reform of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). The ECI gives citizens the right and means to request legislative proposals. But the right to set up one's own website to collect signatures to back a request is now under pressure, as the European Commission wants to control the entire process. At first sight, then, the concerns over this seemed justified. When I studied the text more closely, however, it turned out that this wasn't the case. It's striking that such a misunderstanding can occur in relation to the ECI, of all things, and it shows once again how great is the gap between the European Parliament and the public.
3 March 2019
This week I'm going to be spending two days in Geneva at the invitation of the EU Service for External Action, discussing the protection of freedom of religion and belief. Some will ask themselves what a representative of the SP is doing there. Which is why I have decided to use this weeklog to clear up a couple of misunderstandings. It's true that the SP places no importance on 'identity', and that we seek to combat forces that try to set people against each other on the basis of identity and in that way lead them away from the real struggle, which is our fight against neoliberalism and the increasing exploitation of labour and the enrichment of capital. That doesn't mean, however, that we don't find the fight against discrimination important. We want everyone on board, whatever the colour of their skin and whatever their beliefs, because we need everyone in our core struggle.
10 February 2019
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.
3 February 2019
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.
13 January 2019
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.