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. On the contrary, according to CEO, the study will serve as the basis for recommendations which it will make in the framework of economic governance.
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? It's tough, but it can be done, and the SP's European Parliament group is playing a role in this, by laying bare the relations of power, by continually combating those whose central focus is on the market and not on people, and by actively bringing forward and supporting proposals in the European Parliament which point towards a better society.
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. I'm referring to the EU budget, which from 2020 would be doubled, at least if it was up to the chair of the European Parliament, the Italian Antonio Tajani. So we can only hope that when Santa Claus comes calling, he'll fly past Tajani's chimney tops and find better ways to use his money.
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. If these diplomas come from member states other than one’s own, that’s fine as long as you can check up on them. Yet for the European Commission and the lobbyists only the market counts. This is precisely the area in which you can see how Brussels is possessed by these lobbyists and their neoliberal market-think. Time to stick the boot into this sort of proposal.
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. In any case on 1st November the Zeelanders themselves will take the floor. The only people I want to stay at home are the bankers and managers of major corporations, whose views are already given too much of a hearing in Brussels.
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. While the Netherlands is starting to wake up to the issue, the European Parliament, unfortunately, is still half-asleep. Time to change that.
1 October 2017
The EU advocates democracy, but has so far completely failed to meet recent challenges in Hungary, Poland and now of course Spain. Up to now the EU has always followed a formal course, taking action via delegations or in the Spanish case through silence, because silence too is a political statement. Why doesn’t the EU work via mediators, people who are authoritative when it comes to the law who can meet with the parties involved? We need to get away from the kind of thinking about power that leads to the idea that Brussels is a power unto itself, which is why I’m looking not to the European Commission but to the heads of member state governments. If there’s a problem between friends, you need a mediator. That’s what they need to do now: a job for Dutch PM Mark Rutte and his colleagues in the European Council.