Blog Dennis de Jong

14 April 2019

Transparency behind closed doors?

Next week is the last Strasbourg week before the European elections. The working week begins Monday evening with two hearings on, respectively, conflicts of interest and political appointments, both in the presence of Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Günther Oettinger. The name connected to the issue of conflict of interest is that of Czech Prime Minister  Andrej Babis, into whose company Agrofert EU moneys have flowed. As for political appointments, we are of course thinking of the appointment of Martin Selmayr to the post of Secretary-General of the European Commission, though there have also been dodgy goings-on in the Parliament itself. In short, controversial matters. But what has the EP done? The decision has been to hold the hearings behind closed doors. Evidently there's a lot to hide, but I'll be certainly be protesting this secrecy during the hearings.

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7 April 2019

Thanks to Timmermans, compulsory lobby register put on hold

European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is out campaigning. Trekking from town to town he clearly has less time for his own work at the European Commission. The rules do allow Commissioners to campaign for the European elections, but they must first have completed their own work. And in the case of the Lobby Register, it's clear that Timmermans hasn't. Instead of taking part in decisive negotiations with the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers in the week beginning April 15th, Timmermans is crying off. He claims that this is because he isn't happy with the position adopted by the EP and the Council, though the Parliament negotiators say that he's simply being obstructive. And this is the Commissioner who always prides himself on his fight for more transparency. That image has now gone for good. At decisive moments he always lets it drop.

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31 March 2019

This year's budgetary control more successful than ever

I have been trying for years, in cooperation with like-minded MEPs, to reduce waste and conflicts of interest by actively participating in budgetary control. That's mostly a question of give and take, but with more than 80% of my proposals having been adopted, this year has been the most successful of the last decade. This isn't only a matter of over-payment of MEPs' expenses, but also attempts to end the monthly transfer of the entire Parliament to Strasbourg, the position of the more than forty agencies throughout the EU, protection of whistle-blowers, and making the integrity policy at the European Commission sharper and more effective. If the EP plenary accepts something, that doesn't mean it will happen, but at least we're going in the right direction.

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24 March 2019

Bitter struggle over authors' rights

Sometimes it's a simple matter deciding which way to vote in the European Parliament. If the matter at hand concerns neoliberal proposals for liberalisation and privatisation, for example, in general we'd be against. Sometimes, however, it's a great deal more difficult. Whichever way you vote, the outcome is never perfect. That is the case with the directive on authors' rights. The SP wants to see the internet being as free as possible, but we also want artists and writers to be fairly rewarded for their creativity. After studying the issue in depth and consulting all sorts of experts, we have decided to vote for the protection of artists, including for material which can be found on sites such as Youtube.

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17 March 2019

Young climate activists offer hope that another world is possible

On 12th March a delegation of young climate activists – they call themselves 'the truants' – came to the meeting of our group, the GUE-NGL or United Left, in Strasbourg. It was impressive, and not only because because the youth movement is growing ever bigger and ever more international, but above all also because some of these young people had worked out that a transformation of the system would be needed if a fist is to be made of the fight against the warming of the earth's climate. “Of course we's rather not travel by plane, but as long as the train is many times dearer, what do you want us to do? Our whole economic system is unfit for purpose.”

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10 March 2019

Do citizens in Europe now have a say or not?

Our mailboxes are filling up with emails. This is the result of an action this Tuesday in Strasbourg encouraging a vote against the reform of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). The ECI gives citizens the right and means to request legislative proposals. But the right to set up one's own website to collect signatures to back a request is now under pressure, as the European Commission wants to control the entire process. At first sight, then, the concerns over this seemed justified. When I studied the text more closely, however, it turned out that this wasn't the case. It's striking that such a misunderstanding can occur in relation to the ECI, of all things, and it shows once again how great is the gap between the European Parliament and the public.

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3 March 2019

No place for discrimination at the SP

This week I'm going to be spending two days in Geneva at the invitation of the EU Service for External Action, discussing the protection of freedom of religion and belief. Some will ask themselves what a representative of the SP is doing there. Which is why I have decided to use this weeklog to clear up a couple of misunderstandings. It's true that the SP places no importance on 'identity', and that we seek to combat forces that try to set people against each other on the basis of identity and in that way lead them away from the real struggle, which is our fight against neoliberalism and the increasing exploitation of labour and the enrichment of capital. That doesn't mean, however, that we don't find the fight against discrimination important. We want everyone on board, whatever the colour of their skin and whatever their beliefs, because we need everyone in our core struggle.

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27 February 2019

Transparency alone hasn't ended influence of big capital

In recent years we've made lot of progress in making the influence of corporate lobbying on European decision-making more transparent. European Commissioners publish lists of their meetings, lobbyists are obliged to register and alongside their name and other details give an account of their activities, while MEPs having a specific function, such as committee chairs and rapporteurs, must note all meetings with lobbyists. Lobbyists who fail to register are no longer welcome. Yet despite all of this transparency, the influence of big capital has not been eliminated. This corporate capture, as it has been dubbed, has been mapped by the lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory, and their reports demonstrate that the EU is still being led by the nose by big capital.

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10 February 2019

Rutte misses another chance to end the farce of EP's monthly Strasbourg trips

Last Thursday the Dutch Parliament held a debate, in the presence of a number of MEPs, on the State of the Union. During the debate I issued a strongly-worded call for Prime Minister Rutte to work with President Macron to find at last a solution to the monthly displacement of the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg, which costs the European taxpayer fully €200 million per year. There have recently been fresh proposals, notably from the German liberal party the FDP, to establish a new training institute for European diplomats, a creative idea that I have been pleased to embrace, putting forward a motion to that effect. Rutte's reaction was non-existent. As usual, he did not agree with the idea, making this the umpteenth missed opportunity.

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3 February 2019

European political parties – an ill-conceived system

Once every five years they awake, the European political parties, in the runup to the European elections. They choose their lead candidates and in a number of cases draw up 'platforms' the planks of which must be adopted by all of the affiliated national parties in their own European election manifestos. In the lead candidates, whose goal is to become Commission president, we have little interest, but neither would we like to think that our election manifesto was being determined in part by a European party of this kind. We'd rather leave that to our members. That's what's known as democracy, something which is missing from these European parties, most of which allow only national parties to be members, not individuals, a strange construction indeed.

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