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3 December 2018

The arms industry has the EU in its iron grip

Foto: European Defence Agency
Forget all those fine words about how the EU must invest in weaponry in order to stand up to aggression from beyond its borders. Look a little further and you'll see the enormously powerful interests of the arms industry. Its representatives were there in their droves last Thursday during the European Defence Agency’s (EDA's) Annual Conference. Policy makers meet with the industry, with the Agency even seeing it as an opportunity. The conference theme was 'autonomous weapons': no people involved, just killer robots. Are these then 'European values'?

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25 November 2018

Europe's blinkered optimists

‘We dance and we jump and we are so happy'. Nothing to do with the approach of Christmas, but in proclamation of next year's European Parliament elections. If it were up to the Parliament's Secretary-General, that would be the message. Tomorrow he'll be in the EP to give his side of the story in the framework of the annual budgetary control. Let's see then if he can explain why the official information campaign connects so seamlessly to the message being promoted by Macron, Verhofstadt, and to a somewhat lesser extent the Greens. And why the campaign prefers to exclude all of those who, rightly or wrongly, believe that the EU has done nothing for them.

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18 November 2018

EU aid to Turkey is a shambles

Foto: EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

The European Court of Auditors always expresses itself politely, but read the special report which appeared just this week and you'll see that the use of the €3 billion paid to Turkey as aid for the refugees there has been extremely badly organised. The emphasis lay primarily on the contracts for distribution of the money, but what was missing was a clear vision of where needs were greatest and of whether the overheads calculated by the Turkish authorities were realistic. You got the impression that the European Commission's prime goal was to show that the EU had really done something about this financial support and that relations with Turkey were more important than was helping the refugees. Now the Turkish president, Erdogan is demanding still more money. I agree with the court of Auditors that first of all they should put their books in order. We don't want to offer a bottomless pit.

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11 November 2018

Remember - and look ahead

The heads of state and government of Europe turned much of their attention today to the commemoration of the end of the First World War. That's a good thing, because every war was and is one too many. But the French president Immanuel Macron chose to make this the start of his campaign for the European elections. Showing his colours, he entered the liberal 'family' of which the Dutchman and member of the ruling VVD party Hans van Baalen is the chair, the ALDE. In doing this they are identifying themselves with the europhile 'centre', according to which next year's elections revolve around whether you are for or against European cooperation. This is all simply a smokescreen. The real choice is between still more neoliberal predatory capitalism, and a just society where it isn't Shell and Unilever but the workers and small firms who call the shots. In other words it's between the right, which includes Macron, and parties such as the SP. Time to turn off the smoke machines and clear the air. Time for justice.

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4 November 2018

European Parliament can't wait to spend taxpayers' money

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.

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28 October 2018

Arms sales before justice

Foto: POMED

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is even less popular than before' following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Attacks on human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, the complete lack of freedom of religion and opinion and the Saudi involvement in war crimes in Yemen: the international community knew about those things. But Khashoggi is another question, one too obvious to ignore. Yet I'm not optimistic. As long as the interests of big capital weigh more heavily that those of the people, the US and European commitment to human rights will remain utterly hypocritical.

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22 October 2018

Dangerous tunnel vision surrounds Brexit

In my weeklogs I rarely react to other columns, but the one published this week by the daily newspaper NRC and written by their columnist Caroline de Gruyter cannot go unchallenged. She argues that the internal market is not negotiable, because otherwise there would be a falling out amongst member states over unfair advantages given to their own businesses, citing the requirements imposed on goods and services. Not a word about the internal market's victims, the workers and one-person businesses played off against each other. The need for an emergency brake when things start to run away from you is something De Gruyter simply doesn't understand. Rather an unbending EU, an EU which will defend the internal market with fire and sword to the last ditch, than a deal with the UK. Because of this, the chance of a hard Brexit grows by the day. Then the member states will be able to really get stuck in: on the other side of the North Sea raw capitalism will have free rein, with once again the workers and small businesses as the principal victims.

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14 October 2018

In the shadows: lobbyists at the European Commission

In the Netherlands, Parliament has repeatedly discussed the contacts maintained in connection with the abolition of the tax on dividends between Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other members of his government on the one hand, and multinationals such as Shell and Unilever on the other. All we got by way of enlightenment were dribs and drabs. Something similar has been played out in Brussels. This week the EU Observer published an article in which it was established that virtually nothing is reported about meetings between European Commissioners and lobbyists. When things are done properly, meetings and their subjects are recorded in a register, but many social organisations complain that this doesn't tell them very much. That's why I'm happy to support the call from the EU Observer to have, from now on, proper reports made of such meetings.

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7 October 2018

Worldwide approach needed for the protection of refugees

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.

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30 September 2018

Golden cages and slave shackles in the European Parliament

A few years ago I used to regularly write about the ridiculously high salaries paid to EU officials. These salaries remain extremely high, and for that reason few of these employees ever leave. They do find this frustrating, however, because they often don't come into consideration when it comes to internal promotions, with more senior posts going to political appointees. Moreover, not all positions are all that lucrative. Recently there was discontent among canteen workers. Now it's the turn of attendants at the House of European History to sound the alarm. They don't work directly for the European Parliament, but respectively for a catering firm and a 'payroller', a company which exists purely to provide labour-related services for other firms, and which don't always look too closely at the working conditions of people they hire. Amongst the museum attendants, there's even talk of modern slave labour. Rich or poor, a great many employees are experiencing frustration, and this must be ended.

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