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27 May 2018

Truck and bus drivers advance on Strasbourg

It's going to happen at last: on Tuesday, 29th May, hundreds of lorry drivers and bus drivers will demonstrate outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The action is timely, because the European Commission's proposals in its 'mobility package' are bad news for these drivers' rights, while the Euro-MPs who must approve them have not found the courage to stand firm in opposition. Without protest there is a strong probability that the proposals will be adopted.

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20 May 2018

It's the Euro, Stupido

First and foremost, I'm no fan of the Italian Lega, one of the coalition partners in the budding government of that country and a party which is certainly on the right. The other coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, is rather unpredictable, but I do often find that I can cooperate well enough with them in the European Parliament. One thing I can understand about this new Italian coalition is that both parties want to cast off the European yoke, especially when it come to 'European economic governance'. And that's why I'm fed up of reading stuff in the mainstream media that expresses the hope that this anti-EU government will fall as quickly as possible. I'd say the media would be better off looking at what's wrong with the euro than going along with the European establishment.

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13 May 2018

Europe Day a dead letter

On 9th May we marked Europe Day. In Brussels and elsewhere, all of the European Union institutions were closed. It was a day off. It's actually an extremely symbolic day, something dreamed up at the highest level, but because the citizens of the member states have never been asked their views, it remains a dead letter. It's one of the many attempts to create a 'European feeling' that simply doesn't exist. This wouldn't be so bad in itself, if there wasn't a hidden agenda: the European feeling must also make it clear why we are a single market. Why all shops in the EU must eventually look alike. Why it's being made increasingly difficult for member states to conduct their own social-economic policies. Europe Day is less innocent than it appears.

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6 May 2018

Juncker is dangerously active over the Western Balkans

It is characteristic of Juncker’s Commission that not only do the European Commissioners clearly want to grab more and more powers from the member states, but that they want to acquire in addition ever more such member states. This week the Council of Europe (an entirely separate, non-EU body comprising 47 countries) published the annual report from its anti-corruption network GRECO. This presents a very different picture from that to be found in the Commission’s mid-April progress reports on individual applicant states. Countries such as Albania and FYROM(Macedonia) have, according to GRECO, made little progress in fighting corruption, despite the European Commission claiming that in that respect things are going well. The strategic interest of the Western Balkans evidently counts for more with Juncker than does telling the truth about the situations in these countries.

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29 April 2018

Who is the most unsavoury lobbyist in Brussels?

Foto: Corporate Europe Observatory
Recent weeks have seen a great deal of attention paid to the rather shady appointment (in indecent haste) of Jean-Claude Juncker’s chum Martin Selmayr as the new Secretary General of the European Commission. Partly as a result of this, a new report from lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) on the close links between the Commission and the bankers has received far too little attention, despite its being just as shocking. The European Parliament Intergroup on Integrity, Transparency, Corruption and Organised Crime (ITCO), a cross-party body of which I am co-chair, will shortly be presenting a prize to the most unsavoury lobbyist, who will be nominated by the citizens of the EU's member states.

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22 April 2018

Once again, EU attacks our pensions

For years now we've had to contend with Brussels' attacks on our pension system. The European Commission understands well enough that there is a general payment known as the AOW, but finds it nonsensical that there is also a compulsory supplementary occupational pension, in which employers also have to pay. In their view people should first and foremost take care of their own pensions as individuals. This wouldn't only be handy for the employers, but also mush better for insurance companies who would make handsome profits from it. The latest assault is known as the Pan-European Pension Product and consists of just such an individual insurance. Great news for the market fundamentalists, but in my view this proposed law will come to nothing.

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8 April 2018

Nepotism doesn’t stop at the Hungarian border

The European Commission, and in particular the Dutch Commissioner responsible for such matters, Frans Timmermans, are showing a great deal of concern over the decline of the rule of law in Hungary and Poland, including the lack of an independent judiciary, the extent of corruption and nepotism, and encroachment on journalists’ freedom. All important matters, but the EU’s own institutions, as well as the member states themselves, can also be found lacking in these areas. Below I give a number of examples.

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25 March 2018

The arrogance of power

This Tuesday, 27th March, my entire day at the European Parliament will be taken up by discussions of scandals. In the morning, it's the Hungarian government's fraud; in the afternoon, the Commission's policy on integrity, specifically the appointment of Martin Selmayr as Commission Secretary-General. Of course there is a difference between the corrupt behaviour of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, suspected of corruption and of the evasion of EU public procurement rules, and that of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Both are doing a fine job for their chums, because although he may have followed all the regulations, it's still astonishing that last week Juncker threatened to resign if his European People's Party (EPP, a centre-right group and the biggest in the EP) colleagues failed to support Selmayr's appointment. I would say that both Juncker and Orban are suffering from the arrogance of power.

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18 March 2018

Reject the Services E-card

On 21st March we will concentrating first and foremost on our local elections, because while we may be the European Parliament group, we'll all be off to vote for our SP candidates and to celebrate their success in our own branches. Before I can do that, however, there's a vote in the European Parliament and the situation remains tense. In the Internal Market Committee the likely vote on the Services E-card, with which the Commission proposes to promote the free movement of services across borders, is evenly balanced. But the proposal is absurd, as evidenced by the fact that not only the unions, but also a large proportion of employers are opposed. The card will make things easier for abusive firms and self-employed people who lack proper qualifications to establish themselves throughout the EU. Hopefully common sense will prevail and the proposal will go straight into the recycling bin.

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