We don't need the European Commission to combat child poverty

21 January 2019

We don't need the European Commission to combat child poverty

Foto: SP

This week the European Parliament voted to approve a new European Social Fund that will cost more than €120 billion in the period from 2021 to 2027. The PvdA – the Dutch Labour Party – via a tweet from their MEP Agnes Jongerius - found it necessary to 'denounce' the SP for voting against this fund, including the €6 billion to fight child poverty, a vote which she found odd. I'll gladly pick up this gauntlet, not via a similarly childish tweet (although my fingers itched to do just that), but in my weekly blog.

Evidently, in order to combat child poverty, the Labour Party needs the entire machinery of Brussels, including the overpaid European Commissioners and their overpaid officials, while as far as the SP is concerned we need to stop the endless pumping back and forth of money between The Hague and Brussels and give the Netherlands the space to combat poverty for ourselves. The closer to home the better. Only for the poorest member states is financial aid a responsible approach, but for goodness' sake let's put an end to the whole circus of complicated subsidy demands which in the end benefits only the Brussels bubble. Of course, the Labour Party doesn't have much of a record when it comes to combating child poverty, so what they have neglected in the Netherlands they're hoping to get back via Brussels. What a sanctimonious state of affairs.

Let's take a look, first of all, back to 2014. Then SP leader Emile Roemer made a powerful plea to Lodewijk Asscher, Labour Party Minister of Social Affairs in the coalition government headed – like the present administration - by Mark Rutte, to at last take action when it turned out that more than 600,000 Dutch children had fallen into poverty. No breakfast before school, no money for a school trip. Child poverty is unbelievably harrowing, and as a former schoolteacher, Emile took it personally. Under enormous pressure Labour Party Secretary of State Jetta Klijnsma promised to add €100 million to the fund for fighting poverty amongst children, a drop in the ocean when you compare it to the €41 billion that the same government had cut from state spending. And in fact the Labour Party never saw fit to earmark this €100 million so that children would really feel its benefits. In the end a mere fraction of this money was spent on combating child poverty.

The Labour Party appears to believe that when you can't succeed at home, you can have a bash at doing so via the European Union. With such a rider on the European gravy train as Commissioner Frans Timmermans heading their list for the coming EP elections, I can certainly understand this. The subsidies give the European Commission a great deal of power. Fill in enough forms and you've a chance of receiving such a subsidy. The Netherlands must, moreover, satisfy the diktats of this same Commissioner in the framework of economic governance, or we will not come in for any payments. The aforementioned €41 billion in spending cuts effected by the government won the approval of the Commission as this fitted its recommendations precisely.

As things stand the Netherlands is obliged to pay an annual €4 billion to the EU. Half of this sum is sent back via the subsidy circus. A local authority that wants to do something about poverty is in this way held fast by the golden subsidy cords of Brussels. Combating poverty Brussels-style means a lot of bureaucracy, and a national budget so stripped down that everyone becomes dependent on the EU elite. And if we were to halve our national contribution and promise to make no claims on the European Social Fund, telling the Commission at the same time that we don't need their economic governance? Then we'd be free to develop and implement our own best plans with no interference from Brussels. Because if there's one thing that Labour's Jongerius and I agree about it's that in a rich country such as the Netherlands there's no place for poverty. Instead of sending off childish tweets, Jongerius would be better arranging a meeting with us to discuss how we can get rid of it.

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