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17 December 2017

To the European Commission, privatisation is still sacred

It hasn't had much attention, but the lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has discovered that the European Commission spent a cool €800,000 on a study of publicly-owned companies. KPMG, which will conduct the research, must in particular look into the advantages of liberalisation and privatisation. The study must be completed by the end of the year, but it's clear that the Commission has not yet given up chasing down public services. On the contrary, according to CEO, the study will serve as the basis for recommendations which it will make in the framework of economic governance.

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10 December 2017

Human rights for everyone?

Today is the International Day of Human Rights. And yesterday was the International Anti-Corruption Day. These may not have made front page news, and yet they are important, especially now human rights are being undermined from all sides and corruption is rampant. I'll always carry on resisting those who argue that human rights are a western or liberal invention. But as well as being universal, human rights are indivisible. Social rights go hand in hand with classic human rights: they depend on each other, a fact often forgotten in the west.

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3 December 2017

'For each other' in Europe, too

What an excellent gathering it was that the SP organised this afternoon in Breda under the aegis of our new initiative, the theatre 'Voor Elkaar' – 'For Each Other'. A hall full of people convinced that a real society is possible, one based on fellow-feeling and solidarity. That's something which you can organise in your own neighbourhood or your own country, but what about at European level? It's tough, but it can be done, and the SP's European Parliament group is playing a role in this, by laying bare the relations of power, by continually combating those whose central focus is on the market and not on people, and by actively bringing forward and supporting proposals in the European Parliament which point towards a better society.

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26 November 2017

Santa Claus gets a long wishlist from the EU

The European Union's wishlist is long indeed. All in all, it's the member states who will have to play Santa Claus and pay double the amount they currently do. In exchange they'll get a European army, one European minister or several of them, European inspection services and, most importantly, a large number of funds from which they will be able to get some of their money back, as long as they don't buckle under the piles of bureaucratic papers involved. I'm referring to the EU budget, which from 2020 would be doubled, at least if it was up to the chair of the European Parliament, the Italian Antonio Tajani. So we can only hope that when Santa Claus comes calling, he'll fly past Tajani's chimney tops and find better ways to use his money.

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19 November 2017

Why the European Medicines Agency should not go to Amsterdam

Tomorrow the European ministers meet to decide where the European Medicines Agency (EMA), currently to be found in London, should relocate, which it must do as a result of Brexit.  Once again there's a great deal of horse-trading to be done, and behind closed doors, because the negotiations are secret.  It's not only this secrecy, but the content of the likely agreements, which make this from the word go a missed opportunity. The EMA's responsibility is the approval of medicines, a matter of enormous importance to us all.  This is precisely why this Agency should not be hidden away somewhere and in that way handed on a plate to lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry.  

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12 November 2017

Market, market, market

During the last few weeks I have been pestered by lobbyists about the ‘market in services’. The member states, they argue, are offering far too little and for that reason the lobbyists are pleased with the package of European Commission proposals designed ‘to allow this market to do its work.’ What they forget is that services differ greatly one from another and that regulation of the market is necessary in order to prevent abuses. It’s not for nothing that tradespeople study for diplomas which prove they are qualified. If these diplomas come from member states other than one’s own, that’s fine as long as you can check up on them. Yet for the European Commission and the lobbyists only the market counts. This is precisely the area in which you can see how Brussels is possessed by these lobbyists and their neoliberal market-think. Time to stick the boot into this sort of proposal.

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5 November 2017

Arms industry has Brussels in its grip

We’ve heard it in recent weeks from both the European Commission and the leaders of member state governments: threats on the international level are so great that we have urgent need of a European defence policy. Over the next ten years the Commission wants to channel €40 billion into weapons research via a European Defence Fund. But is the so-called ‘threat’ the real reason for the sudden demand for more finance? A Belgian peace group investigated this and what did it find? The arms industry dreamed up all these plans and pushed them through – the umpteenth example of Brussels being led on the leash by lobbyists for big capital.

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29 October 2017

On the first of November, it’s the Zeelanders’ turn to speak

It’s always inspiring to present an evening on ‘Europe’ to one of our branches. On Wednesday 1st November I’ll be doing that in Goes in Zeeland,the westernmost and least populous province of the Netherlands, down near the Belgian border. This will be a public meeting, which everyone will be welcome to attend, and the main question I want to address will be how we can establish a form of cooperation in which ordinary citizens take the lead role. I’m extremely curious to hear the refreshing ideas on this which I know there are in Zeeland. In any case on 1st November the Zeelanders themselves will take the floor. The only people I want to stay at home are the bankers and managers of major corporations, whose views are already given too much of a hearing in Brussels.

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