25 June 2017
This week I took part in trade union protests against new proposals from the European Commission which will only make social dumping easier. The issue is the introduction of the ‘e-card’. Enforcement of regulations on working conditions will be made more difficult, as inspectorates will be obliged to accept the e-card issued in the worker’s country of domicile. The e-card gives information on the individual’s skills and his or her social security status. Even if it’s clear to the inspectorate that there are flaws in this information, they can do nothing. This is absurd. We’ve had just about enough of exploitation and oppression.
11 June 2017
We saw it in the US with Bernie Sanders, with Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France, and this week in Great Britain with Jeremy Corbyn: old men who have managed with their socialist message to attract thousands of young people. Change is in the air and the end of neoliberalism appears to be in sight. In Brussels such things are not dwelt upon: people would rather look to a restored Franco-German axis. This will turn out to have been a fatal error: if the EU continues to ignore the call for change, it’s doomed.
21 May 2017
Last week the European Parliament political group to which the SP is affiliated, the United European Left (GUE-NGL), had a visit from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. The discussion, which lasted a good hour, focused among other things on social rights. It was striking that Juncker is still trying to distance himself from budgetary fetishism. People, he said, have suffered enough. Now it’s time for investment. When it comes to binding social rights, however, Juncker doesn’t want to know, preferring to stick with the vague principles included in the Commission’s total analysis of the member states which it makes in the framework of European Economic Governance. As for the fight against social dumping, here also the Commission is failing to take any major steps. In the meantime, they want a lot more say over the member states’ social policies. We will have to intensify still further, therefore, our struggle for a social Europe.
7 May 2017
On 11th May the European Parliament Internal Market Committee will vote on my report on abuses in the world of the franchised retail outlet and how to tackle them. It seems that only in the Netherlands does the organisation of independent retailers, which includes many franchisees, have a voice. MEPs from other member states vigorously deny that anything’s wrong in the sector. This is very often the case when it comes to disputes between small and big firms. They remain unnoticed for many years, with small operators staying silent because of their dependence on those granting franchises. So in the world of the small firm as much as elsewhere, the truth is that only by getting organised collectively can you put an end to abuses.
9 April 2017
This week I will be accompanying SP Senate leader Tiny Kox and national secretary Hans van Heijningen to a meeting of the ‘Modern Left’ – an informal group of like-minded parties - in Cyprus. Amongst other things we’ll be discussing the left’s answer to social discontent in – and about – the European Union. There’ll be no complicated negotiations around resolutions or final declarations. Our only aim is to inspire each other and together take a stand against the neoliberalism which has the EU and most of its member states firmly in its grip. “Unity in Diversity” is the EU’s official motto. There’s little of that on show in Brussels, but as the Modern Left we are putting the same idea into practice.
2 April 2017
Following her appointment in 2014, Slovenian Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc gave the impression that she would be dealing with the issue of exploitation of lorry drivers. The European transport unions have learnt instead that she is a harsh neoliberal who has no intention of addressing exploitation, but on the contrary, wants to see even fiercer competition between drivers. They are planning to react with action: in two months Bulc’s plans will no longer be provisional; definite proposals will be issued.
26 March 2017
It was a fortuitous coincidence: the ceremony in Rome on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the EEC, and the SP party council in Amersfoort, occurred on the same weekend. I was really happy that I had not gone to Rome but was instead at the party council where we looked at last week's general election. I was pleased not only because of the constructive discussions and Emile Roemer's inspiring speech, but also because the media always give a misleading account of what occurs at SP meetings. The party council was and is harmonious and optimistic about the future, but I've not been able to read that anywhere.
19 March 2017
On 25th March the heads of the governments of the European Union’s member states will assemble in Rome to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the EU’s founding treaty, the treaty to which that city gave its name. The European Commission, together with the Maltese EU presidency, would like to take this opportunity to issue a solemn declaration in order to give the EU a fresh lift. One thing is indeed clear, and that is that the EU will be playing an even greater role in internal security and in defence policy. At the same time the meat will still consist of market-oriented economic policies, with at best a thin social gravy poured over it. So this Declaration will certainly not be any cause for celebration for ordinary people in Europe.
19 February 2017
This week the public broadcaster NOS has been giving a great deal of attention to the fact that there is a significant shortfall in the voluntary pension provision for people who were Euro-MPs in the period prior to 2009. I have received a number of reactions from people angry that these gilt-edged pensions should be being paid at all. I completely agree with these people, certainly when you consider that pension payments in the Netherlands have been frozen for years. In my report on the European Parliament’s accounts I am demanding therefore that a plan be developed, and quickly, which will allow the ex-MEPs themselves to make up the shortfall. Enough is enough.