“Democrats 66” in European Parliament no friends of local democracy

11 March 2018

“Democrats 66” in European Parliament no friends of local democracy

On March 6th I took part in a debate in Brussels with fellow Dutch MEPs on the approaching local elections. That it would be the EU which took centre stage in this debate, rather than local authorities was something I had anticipated. But that when they voted to approve far-reaching proposals, the MEPs from other parties had no idea what they were voting for, borders on the unbelievable.

This emerged when I brought up the so-called notification directive. I've written about this many times. It means that soon every development plan and every regulation which could potentially affect the free movement of services must first be presented to the European Commission. The Commission then has three months to study the plan and if they don't like it, another period of three months to try to find a rapprochement. Thus, six months before the local authority can finalise a decision. If no agreement is reached and the Commission still don't like what they see, they can begin a formal procedure against the Netherlands.

During the debate it became obvious that Sophie In’t Veld, MEP for D66 knows nothing at all about the notification directive. Democrats '66, to give them their full title, were founded in 1966 with the ostensible aim of democratising politics, yet it seems that giving the public control over things is no longer so important to them, as has also been shown in debates on referenda. But D66 isn't the only one. In the European Parliament plenary I recently requested a debate on the notification directive, but nobody found this necessary. Now it turns out that they didn't know what it was all about, but obediently voted for it anyway. This is deeply depressing.

In ever more local and provincial councils disquiet is growing, as local and regional democracy are further undermined by Brussels. Centre-right MEP Esther de Lange of the CDA was quite correct to point out during the debate that we in the European Parliament are 'Brussels' ourselves, but that surely means that at the very least you should be able to expect MEPs to know what they're voting on. Sometimes far-reaching proposals are hidden behind a bland title, and no-one was at all alerted by the title 'notification directive'. But part of what you should be doing as a Euro-MP is going through such documents. That's simply performing our duty to those who vote for us.

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