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10 September 2017

Ignore Juncker, but keep a close eye on Macron and Merkel

This week the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will give his State of the Union address in the European Parliament in Brussels. Everyone’s holding their breath, because Juncker is going to present a new, sixth scenario for the future of the EU, the nature of which has until now been kept under wraps. What many people are forgetting is that Juncker has no power in this, that it’s the heads of the member state governments who will decide. So it’s much more important to keep your eye on Macron and Merkel than it is to heed what Juncker has to say.

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3 September 2017

The European Commission shakes its fist

Last week Commissioner Frans Timmermans didn’t pull his punches: to save the rule of law in the country, the European Commission would be coming down hard on Poland. At the same time the British were informed by the Commission’s Brexit negotiator that they had presented no real proposals and that the talks would be held up. And then, to cap it all, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced that he had a sixth scenario up his sleeve designed to make the EU into a true political union, or, as you might put it, a superstate.

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27 August 2017

Consumer rights: the struggle continues

For years the European Commission has attempted to harmonise consumer protection laws across the EU, so that if you buy something in another member state, you know precisely what your rights are. Consumer organisations have, however, been doubtful about this. No wonder when you see that the current proposals threaten, for example, to reduce the duration of guarantees. The solution is simple: a minimum level of protection could be laid down at EU level, while individual member states retain the right to give additional protection should they see fit.

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20 August 2017

The European Parliament isn’t going to solve the problem of terrorism

Just before the summer recess the European Parliament took the decision to set up a special committee on the fight against terrorism in the European Union. Its mandate is broad, but my prediction is that the result of its deliberations will be to propose that the EU must be given more powers in this area, and perhaps once again that a new or strengthened EU institution must be added to the mix.

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13 August 2017

Can football ever become a game again instead of a marketplace?

Unprecedented millions have been paid out on transfers of footballers during the last few weeks. One Dutch daily, AD, discovered that the twenty English Premier League clubs have so far spent more than a billion euros on new players. The commercialisation of the game (or at least the man’s game) has thus got completely out of hand. Unfortunately it’s seen principally as a market in the European Parliament, too, while the Dutch women’s team have demonstrated that you can have exciting matches without such exorbitant sums.

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6 August 2017

Brussels and The Hague must stop ignoring Calais situation

In June the first death occurred, when a Polish truckdriver crashed into a row of lorries which had to stop suddenly because some migrants had blocked the road with a tree trunk. Truck drivers are still going to Great Britain, but for how long? Once again a time is fast approaching when it will be too late to act, and yet once again the European Union decision-makers in Brussels, and the Dutch government in The Hague, remain worryingly quiet, while the government in Paris blunders on.

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30 July 2017

What can you do about Greece’s anti-social judges?

In recent weeks a great deal of justified criticism has been levelled at the Polish government’s proposals, which have the support of the country’s Parliament, to give the holders of political power the right to hire and fire judges. Judges should be independent so that when necessary they can protect the citizenry from governmental power. But what can you do about rulings from national judges that involve a direct attack on social rights, as was recently the case in Greece? The left Greek government was immediately lumbered with a major problem.

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24 July 2017

European Court leaves young workers out in the cold

On 19th July the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that it was acceptable for workers to be shown the door on their 25th birthday, because at that point in the full adult minimum wage kicks in and they become too expensive. So it’s clearly okay for minimum youth wages to be far below the level for older workers, and in the meantime young workers can go to hell.

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17 July 2017

Internet services from abroad are now cheaper. Should we rejoice?

A few weeks ago new EU rules were introduced making phone calls, text messages and information  sent via the internet  the same price from other member states as they are within the Netherlands. Dutch former European Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding were jubilant:  you see, the EU is there for you too! But dig a little deeper and you’ll find all sorts of exceptions and that the whole thing is pretty complicated. And dig still deeper than that and the question will arise: if there really is a market for telecommunications, why does the EU have to stick its oar in?

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9 July 2017

So what kind of European cooperation do we want to see?

Last week I wrote about the plans to further the project for a European superstate. I received a large postbag in reaction to this. People were shocked by how far these plans had got, but others wanted to know how the SP would like to see European cooperation organised. You can find the broad lines in our election manifestos: yes to cooperation, no to a superstate, and so no to a European government. Yet for all of those European Commissioners who see their right to exist as resting on the issuing of ever more fresh EU directives and regulations, this won’t do at all.

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