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20 March 2011

Spending cuts? Put an end to Galileo!

The Chair of the Multi-Annual Budget Committee said last week that people who are looking to make savings in the European budget should first of all say just where that could be effected. This statement demonstrated once again how difficult it is to get my colleagues in the European Parliament to understand that you can’t keep chucking money around in Brussels when at the national level the most cold-hearted austerity measures are being imposed, and have been ever since the 1980s. We in the SP have made a whole series of proposals to combat EU wastage, one of which could in one fell blow save billions: halt the development of a redundant European GPS system called Galileo.

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13 March 2011

Debate with a Christian Democrat

Today I was a guest in the Karaktur Political Café in Breda, debating with the Christian Democrat MEP Wim van der Camp. Van der Camp said that cooperation between the parties in Brussels was such that he felt it was time that the SP took its turn in government.

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6 March 2011

Keep a close eye on Europe’s leaders!

On Friday 11th March the heads of EU member states and their governments will meet once again. This won’t keep many people from their sleep, but there is a sizeable chance that the leaders will be taking important decisions regarding European economic governance. Will Brussels soon be laying down the law on the collective labour agreements that currently determine wages and conditions in most Dutch sectors, or on the age at which we will be allowed to retire? There’s a real chance of this happening.

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27 February 2011

How trustworthy is the European Court of Auditors?

It’s a success: on 3rd March the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee will receive a visit from Martin Engwirda, a visit requested by – amongst others - the SP’s European Parliament. Engwirda will speak about his experiences during the time that he was a member of the European Court of Auditors.

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23 February 2011

The pink imam

Yesterday I was in Amsterdam for, amongst other things, a meeting organised by the Culture and Leisure Centre, the world’s oldest organised gay and lesbian group. The guest speaker was the South Africa-born ‘pink imam’, Mushin Hendricks. It was an impressive and moving gathering. In total contrast to the zeitgeist blowing through Europe bringing tension between religions, between secular and believer, what we heard here was a message of hope. Just as in Egypt, Tunisia and all those other countries in which Muslims are taking to the streets to demand democracy and human rights, there appears to be talk of revolution in the Netherlands, too, though a relatively quiet one. Five years ago a meeting of this kind would have been impossible, but now Muslim gays and lesbians are daring to express their natures openly. And the imam? He looked, and saw that it was good.

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13 February 2011

The European Commission’s mysterious advisers

Dennis de Jong This coming Thursday the European Parliament, on an initiative from the SP, will hold a debate with the European Commission on the mystery which continues to surround the Commission’s countless advisers. In practice it appears that it is easier for major corporations to advise the Commission via ‘expert groups’ than it is for small businesses, the trade union movement or consumer groups or environmentalist organisations. The Commission promised improvements and has adjusted the rules, but in my opinion the changes are still far from sufficient. Although in formal terms the Parliament has no power in relation to this, on Thursday we will nevertheless attempt to cast some light on these dark goings-on.

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30 January 2011

Making illegal residence a penal offence is senseless

Tomorrow we will write a little history, when for the first time five Dutch political parties – the SP, Labour Party, the Green Left, the centrist D66 and the Christian Union will together present European Parliamentary questions to the European Commission. The questions concern the Dutch government’s proposal to make illegal residence an offence for which one can be imprisoned. Broad cooperation across party lines has been possible, as it was over the continued Dutch presence in Afghanistan, because the government’s plans are both inhumane and senseless, as well as being in conflict with existing European rules.

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23 January 2011

Political groups in the European Parliament

Last week former Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) minister Jo Ritzen astonished friend and foe alike with his proposal for a new European movement in the EP. This would involve cooperation between the PvdA, the German Social Democrats and Greens, our own centrist D66 and the British Labour Party. The call appeared on Friday in Dutch national daily Trouw, but the next day saw a swift reaction – none of the political parties named knew anything about Ritzen’s plans. Thijs Berman, PvdA leader in the European Parliament, invited Ritzen to come to Brussels for a week’s training course in order to brush up his knowledge of the EP a little. That made me think that I might dedicate my weeklog this week to the phenomenon of political groups in the EP. Perhaps this might help?

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16 January 2011

Health care is no (European) market

This coming week is once again a Strasbourg week, and that means that we will again be voting. One of the items on the agenda is the so-called patients’ directive, ostensibly designed to make it easier for patients to look for and obtain health care outside their own member state. In reality this is an attempt by the European Commission to develop a European market for health care services. And it looks as if a majority in the European Parliament will vote in favour.

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3 January 2011

Happy New Year!

To all of the readers of this blog, I would like first of all to express my wishes that 2011 will prove a more socially progressive and more humane year than the one which preceded it. New Year’s Day means looking ahead. As far as the European Parliament goes, 2011 will be important: we will be taking far-reaching decisions on economic governance, with the possibility that fewer powers will lie with the member states and more with Brussels. And we must take steps in relation to the multi-annual budget: will we continue to pump ever more money back and forth and will we increase the salaries of EU officials and MEPs? Or will Brussels also have to tighten its belt?

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