14 January 2018
The European umbrella group for organisations of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), known by its French acronym UEAPME, is sounding a warning: the European Commission wants to change the definition of 'SME' to allow bigger firms to come under it. The EU support which SMEs can access could, the Commission argues, lead to too many of them deliberately remaining small, not seeking to grow beyond the size at which they would fail to qualify for aid.
17 December 2017
It hasn't had much attention, but the lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has discovered that the European Commission spent a cool €800,000 on a study of publicly-owned companies. KPMG, which will conduct the research, must in particular look into the advantages of liberalisation and privatisation. The study must be completed by the end of the year, but it's clear that the Commission has not yet given up chasing down public services.
10 December 2017
Today is the International Day of Human Rights. And yesterday was the International Anti-Corruption Day. These may not have made front page news, and yet they are important, especially now human rights are being undermined from all sides and corruption is rampant. I'll always carry on resisting those who argue that human rights are a western or liberal invention. But as well as being universal, human rights are indivisible. Social rights go hand in hand with classic human rights: they depend on each other, a fact often forgotten in the west.
3 December 2017
What an excellent gathering it was that the SP organised this afternoon in Breda under the aegis of our new initiative, the theatre 'Voor Elkaar' – 'For Each Other'. A hall full of people convinced that a real society is possible, one based on fellow-feeling and solidarity. That's something which you can organise in your own neighbourhood or your own country, but what about at European level?
26 November 2017
The European Union's wishlist is long indeed. All in all, it's the member states who will have to play Santa Claus and pay double the amount they currently do. In exchange they'll get a European army, one European minister or several of them, European inspection services and, most importantly, a large number of funds from which they will be able to get some of their money back, as long as they don't buckle under the piles of bureaucratic papers involved.
12 November 2017
During the last few weeks I have been pestered by lobbyists about the ‘market in services’. The member states, they argue, are offering far too little and for that reason the lobbyists are pleased with the package of European Commission proposals designed ‘to allow this market to do its work.’ What they forget is that services differ greatly one from another and that regulation of the market is necessary in order to prevent abuses. It’s not for nothing that tradespeople study for diplomas which prove they are qualified.
29 October 2017
It’s always inspiring to present an evening on ‘Europe’ to one of our branches. On Wednesday 1st November I’ll be doing that in Goes in Zeeland,the westernmost and least populous province of the Netherlands, down near the Belgian border. This will be a public meeting, which everyone will be welcome to attend, and the main question I want to address will be how we can establish a form of cooperation in which ordinary citizens take the lead role. I’m extremely curious to hear the refreshing ideas on this which I know there are in Zeeland.
8 October 2017
We don’t think about it enough, but when we go online with our mobile or our PC, any one of us could be the victim of conmen on the Internet, of cyber-crime. This applies to private individuals, state bodies and companies. Tomorrow I’m taking part in a conference of the Foundation to Tackle Financial-Economic Crime in the Netherlands (known by its Dutch acronym, Safecin). The conference title is ‘Bloodless Crime’, and its purpose is to discuss the national and EU measures needed to protect Internet users, including in particular small businesses.