21 February 2010

Europe and the building industry

There is a great deal wrong in the building industry: officially, everyone agrees that there should be equal pay for equal work, but in practice things aren't quite like that. Many people work illegally in the building trade and surveillance is inadequate. Often, it's international networks who provide these illegal workers. There is also the problem of people who, while formally self-employed, work in practice for only one employer and under working conditions much less favourable than those of actual employees.

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14 February 2010

Cooperating with other parties in the EP

In order to achieve anything in the European Parliament, you have to cooperate with other parties. That holds true even for the biggest group, the Christian Democrats of the European People’s Party, who this week suffered a number of setbacks as a result of finding insufficient support from other groups, The SP Eurogroup tries always to behave constructively in order to record as many concrete results as possible.

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7 February 2010


Last week the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee voted against the provisional agreement with the US for the handover of bank data in the framework of the fight against terrorism. Next week in Strasbourg the definitive vote will probably take place, and it is not out of the question that at the last moment agreement will be reached with the Spanish Presidency.

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31 January 2010

Dutch trade unions go Europe!

Last Friday, 29th January, I attended a meeting with the main Dutch trade union federation, the FNV, on the subject of its efforts as regards Brussels. In the past I found it striking that the voice of the trade unions was insufficiently heard within the EU institutions. For every labour movement lobbyist there were ninety-nine from industry. The FNV recognises this and wants, furthermore, to do something about it, but there remains a huge information lag and a lack of means to address the problem.

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17 January 2010

Will these takeovers never end?

It hasn't attracted much attention, but we find ourselves in the midst of a new wave of takeovers. The buying frenzy has broken out once again. What this means is corporations becoming even bigger, as well as more space for profitmaking on the basis of speculation. Managers and shareholders will be able once more to make pots of money by dealing in companies, rather than having any real involvement in them. And the European Commission merely sits back and watches.

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10 January 2010

Strike in Brussels

The week to come will see a strike at the EU institutions in Brussels. Officials are calling for a 3.7% pay increase instead of the 1.8% agreed by the member states in December. According to the rules they should indeed have had 3.7%, so formally they are in the right, but you have to ask yourself where their feeling of solidarity has got to, solidarity with all those people who have been badly affected by the crisis.

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3 January 2010

Confirmation Hearings for EU Commissioners soon under way

In a week's time the European Parliament gathers for its first meetings of the year. All eyes will be on the hearings for the proposed new Commissioners, who must yet be approved by the Parliament. Once again the dog will have his day, but the new Commission is unlikely to be given a hard time. The right-wing Parliament will without doubt give its support to this right-wing Commission.

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28 December 2009

What will Brussels do to our social rights in 2010?

On 7th January we return to work in Brussels, but this does not of course mean that in the meantime, though free of meetings, there's nothing at all to do. This afternoon I'm here in Rotterdam at the commemoration of the victims of the Gaza war, which happened just a year ago. In addition there's a backlog of correspondence to be dealt with, and much to read on what will be the important issues in 2010.

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22 December 2009

'No trips to Strasbourg without good reason'

Since first represented in the European Parliament, the SP has participated in a regular meeting of Dutch Euro-MPs of all parties, the so-called ‘Oranjeberaad’, the ‘Orange Consultation’ (orange being the national colour). Each party has of course its own views, but in addition we are all Dutch and there are some national interests which we can, in my opinion, best defend together.

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18 December 2009

Strasbourg, or Stress-burg, as it’s known to insiders – Whatever you call it, it’s a circus

Last week we were in Brussels, welcoming visitors from animal welfare group ‘Dierenbescherming’ (Animal Protection), environmentalists from the Dutch Foundation for Nature and Environment, and consumers’ organisations, but this week we gathered in Strasbourg. While the Netherlands disappeared under a carpet of snow, Euro-MPs and their staff were stuck in the fishbowl of the European Parliament’s building complex. With thousands crammed into limited space, it’s hard not to find yourself distracted by all sorts of peripheral issues.

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