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5 August 2018

Barnier should be more flexible over internal market in negotiations with UK

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.

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29 July 2018

The eurotheatre with Macron, Merkel and Rutte deserves a new 'tomato action'.

Foto: Kaylee K

Sometimes things can get genuinely exciting in the European Union, and sometimes it's simply pure theatre. When it comes to the future of the euro, it's for the most part the latter, and the various roles are decided in advance. Macron wants a common budget for good times and bad, managed by a European Finance Minister. Merkel is happy to go along with him to a degree, but only if the member states are forced to subject themselves to the yoke of budgetary discipline. And while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte does want budgetary discipline, he doesn't favour a common budget. Three leading actors who have long known that there'll be a happy ending: Rutte is used as the bad guy in her plan to impose her own views on Macron. And so this summer we're seeing important steps towards a federal eurozone. Only real left forces can see through this charade. For example the Mélenchon movement in France, whose very name, La France Insoumise -”France Unsubdued” - expresses a refusal to don the European yoke. In a famous event in the 1960s, known as the Tomato Action, drama students began to throw tomatoes at the actors in protest at the extremely conservative nature of the selection of plays. We need those tomato throwers to step up again, because this play doesn't deserve a happy ending, at least not for those playing the leading roles.

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22 July 2018

Small businesses want to restrain the market power of corporate capital

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.

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15 July 2018

European Commission shouldn't be afraid of its own whistle-blowers

Just a week to go until the summer recess, but there's still hard work to be done around the European Commission's proposals for the protection of whistle-blowers. What's striking about these proposals is that they offer protection to all whistle-blowers everywhere, except in the EU institutions themselves, which go unmentioned in the proposed legislative text. This fits a trend, where the Commission is happy to tell the member states what they must do, but lags behind when it comes to its own practices.

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8 July 2018

Heavy workload, but here's how the European Parliament could take things a little easier

With two weeks remaining before the European Parliament's summer recess, most of my fellow MEPs are becoming more than fed up with the ever-growing pressure of work. On 27th June mainstream media reported that according to the Austrian EU presidency, which began on 1st July, 200 legislative proposals had been presented. Yet the European Commission and the European Parliament have themselves to blame, at least in part, for this. Below, a few ideas for slowing down a little.

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1 July 2018

Killer robots made possible by the EU

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. 

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24 June 2018

Should the Greeks be happy now?

This summer the Greek aid programme will come to an end, following the agreement in the Eurogroup on an easing of the country's debt obligations.  But should the Greeks be feeling relieved? In exchange for the aid the country will continue to exist under effective receivership. Moreover, the real winner remains Germany. Not only were the German banks which at the high point of the crisis continued to carry Greek advances on their balances rescued, it turns out now that the German central bank earned €2.9 billion on the bonds and loans which it bought.

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24 June 2018

Dutch citizens should not be extradited to countries like Poland without real guarantees

Foto: Robert de Klerk / SP

SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong is urging authorities in the Netherlands to be extremely circumspect when it comes to the extradition of Dutch citizens to Poland, Hungary and other EU member states where the rule of law is under pressure.  Explaining his concerns, De Jong said that “a report published today by the NGO Fair Trials International, Beyond Surrender Putting human rights at the heart of the European Arrest Warrant,
reveals that following extradition to Poland, amongst other countries, many people accused of crimes are kept in inhuman conditions. In such a case it's important to be able to trust an independent judge who will rule as to whether it's really necessary to remand a suspect in custody and if so, ensure that he or she will be well-treated and receive adequate care. Fair Trials give the example of a heavily pregnant woman extradited from the Netherlands to Poland, where she gave birth in custody where there was inadequate care for her baby, which was ill. Under normal circumstances it's important in such cases to be circumspect with regard to extradition, but if the judge isn't independent I'd rather not see vulnerable people extradited to Poland at all. We shouldn't be taking those risks.”

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17 June 2018

Shut up about a 'social Europe'

It was one of the Juncker Commission;s promises: the European Union would have a social pillar and as a result, everything would be different. If you follow the news, you'll know that this isn't what happened. The EU finds it tremendous that French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing the liberalisation of his country's railways, with the workers as its first victims. Their terms of employment are to be 'reformed', for which read demolished. At almost the same moment, the national public broadcaster NOS reports that call centres in, amongst other places, Lisbon, are holding down costs by exploiting young Dutch people. A truly social EU would take some sort of action against this, but in Brussels all is quiet.

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14 June 2018

The Toilet Duck and the European Commission

The president of the European Parliament, the useless Italian Berlusconi fan Antonio Tajani, was beside himself with joy. The latest figures from the European opinion pollster Eurobarometer showed that the European Union had never been so popular. For the Dutch people, this type of self-recommendation brings to mind the Toilet Duck, as I shall explain.

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