12 September 2018

Can a Federal Europe ever be democratic?

The most europhile MEPs, often from the liberal ALDI or Greens, have united in what they call the Spinelli Group, named after the founder of the European federalist movement. Last week they brought out a new manifesto, in which they make a number of proposals for a sovereign and democratic Europe. But could a United States of Europe ever be truly democratic?

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2 September 2018

Human rights are about more than individual rights

Next Tuesday, together with Christian Union MEP Peter van Dalen, I'll be presenting the annual report we put together on behalf of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance. In this report the emphasis will be on the collective aspects of this freedom. Too often human rights are seen as individual rights in the style of 'I have to do this, so it must be allowed.' But all of your human rights are protected, your privacy as well as your rights as part of a community. Take for example your freedom to organise in a trade union, or the many social rights which a properly functioning welfare system demands. You don't hear much about this from politicians on the right, but these same politicians are demolishing communities in rapid tempo. It is precisely that – working together for a better world - that for me is the core of human rights.

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26 August 2018

One movement isn't the same as the others

Movements are arising in the European Union. Macron has his ‘En Marche’, which he wants to see also established at the European level. There's a movement of 'progressive youth', Volt, aimed at a European superstate. And then there's Jean-Luc  Mélenchon's 'La France Insoumise’ (LFI), which he also wants to broaden into a European movement, 'Now, the People’. Three movements, each completely different from the other, but if it's justice for all that moves you, it's only the latter, Mélenchon's, which is of any real interest.

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5 August 2018

Barnier should be more flexible over internal market in negotiations with UK

The European Union's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, found it necessary in a recently submitted article to remind the British once more that the internal market is one and indivisible. If the UK doesn't accept free movement of persons and of services, then there will be no free movement of goods. There is a reason for this rigidity. Whatever we may hear about a social Europe, the core of the existing form of European integration remains the insistence that there is one market and that this can't be avoided by national action. The Brexit referendum revolved around the questions of free movement of persons and services, rather than trade in goods. Rather than reconsidering matters in the light of these concerns, Barnier is slamming the door in Britain's face. This is a foolish response to the UK, but also to other member states where people have similar concerns.

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29 July 2018

The eurotheatre with Macron, Merkel and Rutte deserves a new 'tomato action'.

Foto: Kaylee K

Sometimes things can get genuinely exciting in the European Union, and sometimes it's simply pure theatre. When it comes to the future of the euro, it's for the most part the latter, and the various roles are decided in advance. Macron wants a common budget for good times and bad, managed by a European Finance Minister. Merkel is happy to go along with him to a degree, but only if the member states are forced to subject themselves to the yoke of budgetary discipline. And while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte does want budgetary discipline, he doesn't favour a common budget. Three leading actors who have long known that there'll be a happy ending: Rutte is used as the bad guy in her plan to impose her own views on Macron. And so this summer we're seeing important steps towards a federal eurozone. Only real left forces can see through this charade. For example the Mélenchon movement in France, whose very name, La France Insoumise -”France Unsubdued” - expresses a refusal to don the European yoke. In a famous event in the 1960s, known as the Tomato Action, drama students began to throw tomatoes at the actors in protest at the extremely conservative nature of the selection of plays. We need those tomato throwers to step up again, because this play doesn't deserve a happy ending, at least not for those playing the leading roles.

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22 July 2018

Small businesses want to restrain the market power of corporate capital

Brussels is the paradise of market fundamentalism, which is why it's all the more striking that in recent weeks we have spent so much time in the European Parliament Internal Market Committee on intervening in the market to prevent the exploitation of small firms. There are thousands of examples of unfair practices by big corporations in their treatment of smaller companies. This gives me another reason to want to tackle dishonest trading methods, but as long as we fail to do something about market domination and recognise that corporations can be too big, we'll be mopping the floor without stopping the flood at its source.

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15 July 2018

European Commission shouldn't be afraid of its own whistle-blowers

Just a week to go until the summer recess, but there's still hard work to be done around the European Commission's proposals for the protection of whistle-blowers. What's striking about these proposals is that they offer protection to all whistle-blowers everywhere, except in the EU institutions themselves, which go unmentioned in the proposed legislative text. This fits a trend, where the Commission is happy to tell the member states what they must do, but lags behind when it comes to its own practices.

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8 July 2018

Heavy workload, but here's how the European Parliament could take things a little easier

With two weeks remaining before the European Parliament's summer recess, most of my fellow MEPs are becoming more than fed up with the ever-growing pressure of work. On 27th June mainstream media reported that according to the Austrian EU presidency, which began on 1st July, 200 legislative proposals had been presented. Yet the European Commission and the European Parliament have themselves to blame, at least in part, for this. Below, a few ideas for slowing down a little.

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1 July 2018

Killer robots made possible by the EU

Attention has been so focussed on the debate around immigration that other important issues have been hardly noticed. The heads of EU member state governments, for instance, last week voted to establish a European Defence Fund. I am not in the least surprised that these leaders took no notice of the criticisms of the militarisation of the European research programme from ourselves and others, but that they should ignore the call from more than 800 scientists to at least spend no money on the development of killer robots was less predictable.  The combination of artificial intelligence and weapons is - literally and figuratively – deadly. The EU, however, finds this of sufficient interest to develop it further. Nothing, absolutely nothing, remains of the original ideal of peace. 

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24 June 2018

Should the Greeks be happy now?

This summer the Greek aid programme will come to an end, following the agreement in the Eurogroup on an easing of the country's debt obligations.  But should the Greeks be feeling relieved? In exchange for the aid the country will continue to exist under effective receivership. Moreover, the real winner remains Germany. Not only were the German banks which at the high point of the crisis continued to carry Greek advances on their balances rescued, it turns out now that the German central bank earned €2.9 billion on the bonds and loans which it bought.

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