6 January 2019
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.
1 January 2019
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.
4 November 2018
The money which the European Union has at its disposal is primarily dependent on a multi-annual budget drawn up for a period of seven years. This budget is decided by the member states, with the European Parliament enjoying no more than a 'veto or approve' vote. With the help of the European Commission, however, there's more to it than that for the EP. In all sorts of policy areas we are receiving in rapid tempo proposals for programmes. This involves a normal legislative procedure, one which gives the Parliament a role, and once a programme has been adopted it will be written in stone for several years, including its costs. This is fine for the EP, which thus gets a greater say. I don't understand, however, why the heads of government, such as our own Prime minister Mark Rutte, go along with it,. I would have thought they would be concerned to save taxpayers' money, but by agreeing to so many programmes they risk the multi-annual budget turning out to be very expensive indeed.
7 October 2018
This week SP Member of Parliament Jasper van Dijk produced five questions and answers which the SP wants to see as the basis for the protection of refugees. These proposals proceed seamlessly from my own 2015 plan as well as from the Global Compact for Refugees which the UN High Commission for Refugees presented this month to the General Assembly. Support from the international community must be drastically increased and people should not be left to live for long periods in camps. The most vulnerable people who cannot stay in their region must be resettled. And an end must be put as rapidly as possible to the horrors which people have to confront on their way to a safe haven.
2 September 2018
Next Tuesday, together with Christian Union MEP Peter van Dalen, I'll be presenting the annual report we put together on behalf of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance. In this report the emphasis will be on the collective aspects of this freedom. Too often human rights are seen as individual rights in the style of 'I have to do this, so it must be allowed.' But all of your human rights are protected, your privacy as well as your rights as part of a community. Take for example your freedom to organise in a trade union, or the many social rights which a properly functioning welfare system demands. You don't hear much about this from politicians on the right, but these same politicians are demolishing communities in rapid tempo. It is precisely that – working together for a better world - that for me is the core of human rights.
26 August 2018
Movements are arising in the European Union. Macron has his ‘En Marche’, which he wants to see also established at the European level. There's a movement of 'progressive youth', Volt, aimed at a European superstate. And then there's Jean-Luc Mélenchon's 'La France Insoumise’ (LFI), which he also wants to broaden into a European movement, 'Now, the People’. Three movements, each completely different from the other, but if it's justice for all that moves you, it's only the latter, Mélenchon's, which is of any real interest.
5 August 2018
The European Union's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, found it necessary in a recently submitted article to remind the British once more that the internal market is one and indivisible. If the UK doesn't accept free movement of persons and of services, then there will be no free movement of goods. There is a reason for this rigidity. Whatever we may hear about a social Europe, the core of the existing form of European integration remains the insistence that there is one market and that this can't be avoided by national action. The Brexit referendum revolved around the questions of free movement of persons and services, rather than trade in goods. Rather than reconsidering matters in the light of these concerns, Barnier is slamming the door in Britain's face. This is a foolish response to the UK, but also to other member states where people have similar concerns.
22 July 2018
Brussels is the paradise of market fundamentalism, which is why it's all the more striking that in recent weeks we have spent so much time in the European Parliament Internal Market Committee on intervening in the market to prevent the exploitation of small firms. There are thousands of examples of unfair practices by big corporations in their treatment of smaller companies. This gives me another reason to want to tackle dishonest trading methods, but as long as we fail to do something about market domination and recognise that corporations can be too big, we'll be mopping the floor without stopping the flood at its source.
1 July 2018
Attention has been so focussed on the debate around immigration that other important issues have been hardly noticed. The heads of EU member state governments, for instance, last week voted to establish a European Defence Fund. I am not in the least surprised that these leaders took no notice of the criticisms of the militarisation of the European research programme from ourselves and others, but that they should ignore the call from more than 800 scientists to at least spend no money on the development of killer robots was less predictable. The combination of artificial intelligence and weapons is - literally and figuratively – deadly. The EU, however, finds this of sufficient interest to develop it further. Nothing, absolutely nothing, remains of the original ideal of peace.