Blog Dennis de Jong

22 June 2010

European Council puts member states into straight-jacket of austerity

On 17th June the leaders of Europe's governments adopted, as expected, a number of conclusions in relation to the economic crisis. It is disappointing to see the European Council laying such a one-sided emphasis on austerity. The thumbscrews are being turned, the sanctions on failure to make cuts increased. But any attention to rewarding work or effective measures against poverty is missing, while not a single word was said about the need for good public services. The only glimmer of light was that the heads of government were in agreement that surveillance of banks must be improved and that member states should introduce a bank levy.

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13 June 2010

Spending cuts in Brussels, and international solidarity

The last few weeks have of course been emotional and tumultuous, as a result of Kartika Liotard's sudden decision to resign from the SP. Nevertheless, day-to-day work continues. Last Friday I received the good news that the United Left, the European Parliamentary political group to which the SP belongs, has decided to nominate me as a substitute member of the newly established temporary committee to prepare the ground for negotiations over the EU's multi-annual budget. This is an extremely fascinating task, because it is on the basis of this multi-annual budget that the Netherlands' contribution over the coming years will be determined, as will the EU's priorities.

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2 June 2010

Europe's border patrol - FRONTEX

Tomorrow in the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee we will be voting on the accession of Switzerland and Lichtenstein to FRONTEX, the European cooperation organisation for control of borders and the return of people who have been refused asylum, and of illegal immigrants. The SP stands for human dignity and FRONTEX is primarily a cold-hearted operation designed to expel people and keep them out. That's not to say that some kind of effective border guard and some means of returning people who have no legitimate right to be here isn't necessary, because the alternative would be the American situation in which illegal residence is often condoned but the people involved are put into the hands of traffickers who exploit them in the extreme. I will follow the United Left vote list and vote against the extension of Frontex to Switzerland and Lichtenstein. I'm not interested in symbolic politics, however, so at the same time I shall urge the reform of FRONTEX, so that we can develop a more humane form of border control than is currently the case, a more constructive approach than standing on the sidelines and simply voting 'against'.

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23 May 2010

European Parliament free with our money

This week focused for the most part, of course, on the unstable euro. Just like their colleagues in the Netherlands, Europe's market-minded liberals and right-wing Christian Democrats hammered away at the message that the only way that the euro can be saved is via drastic spending cuts in the member states. Against such a background it's a sad business to contemplate that when it comes to the European Parliament's own spending, Members are happy to carry on chucking money around: you have to look after your mates, after all.

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9 May 2010

EURO Solidarity

The Eurozone is coming apart at the seams. Government leaders declare their solidarity with Greece, at the same time paying up once again for the risks banks took, with all the instability this brings. And the bill ? You’ll be getting that this autumn with the new government’s budget review – because it won’t be the banks but ordinary people who will once again be stuck with the costs. Instead of going further down the already failed route of pumping ever more money into the uncompetitive economies of the southern European states, government leaders would have done better to admit that the existing composition of the eurozone isn’t working and that the southern member states must be given the space to consider whether the creation of a second eurozone with a less exacting euro would not be better than an infusion of financial support from Brussels and the neoliberal conditions on which such support will depend.

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11 April 2010

What about the European Single Market?

As members of the SP we don't exactly get a warm feeling when we hear the word 'market', and definitely not when we hear 'European internal market'. This has always been a neoliberal project, under which social and environmental interests are subordinated to the principle of unbridled competition. The economic crisis was a direct consequence of this exaggerated confidence in 'the market'. Still, in the European Parliament the tide now appears to be turning. For the very first time the Parliament has produced a report in which the Commission is at last called upon to take measures to prioritise the general interest over that of 'the market'. One swallow doesn't make a summer, but this is a better message than we have heard from Brussels in a very long time.

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4 April 2010

Economising - How about Brussels?

During the SP's regional conference on 3rd April in Rotterdam, there was a great deal of discussion around the question of how vital it is for the party to develop a thorough financial policy. In my view this is certainly of enormous importance, even if only to be taken seriously in national politics, or if only to demonstrate that we would make the rich pay for the crisis. And that is precisely what the provisional election programme does: €10 billion earmarked for social reconstruction, despite which our total budget makes savings of €10 billion. The way I see it this a unique performance. Brussels could and must give a helping hand here – the EU offers a great deal of scope for savings!

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28 March 2010

Europa 2020: Silently, the leaders of EU governments are taking decisions...

The heads of Europe's governments last week reached an agreement over most of the principal goals of socio-economic policy for the coming ten years. Our own country having seen its government fall a few weeks ago, former and now acting prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende was in Brussels to continue his rule beyond the political grave. Future governments should be prepared, in the meantime, to have their policies examined by Brussels and, if they don't fulfil the agreements which Balkenende has made, to receive a 'recommendation' (on the seat of their pants) and possible even actual sanctions. It is scarcely to be believed that such important decisions can be taken without any kind of broad public debate beforehand, in Parliament, in the street and in the media.

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22 March 2010

Could we keep our water, please?

This week I paid a visit to a gathering of a large number of drinking water supply companies and district water boards, united in the Union of Water Companies in the Netherlands, known by the Dutch acronym VEWIN. The meeting reminded me forcefully that if it were up to the SP we would not do the same with drinking water, the management and delivery of which remains in public ownership, as was done with our electricity supply: no sell off of our water! Everyone at the meeting was in enthusiastic agreement, so now we can only hope that the European Commission sees things the same way.

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14 March 2010

One more time – off to Strasbourg and back again

This week my fellow MEP, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert of the right-wing liberal VVD, suddenly took the initiative to send a letter to the new permanent president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, asking him to put an end to the monthly circus that is the European Parliament's trek to Strasbourg. Great that there is at last some attention being paid to this issue, but the initiative itself, far from being a bold move, reeks of symbolic politics.

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