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28 November 2010

Nazi slogans in the European Parliament

Last week we were once again in Strasbourg. In any event this is hardly a pleasure, involving as it does an enormous waste of time and money, but on this occasion it was an embarrassing business. A MEP from the UK Independence Party (UKIP) found it necessary to launch a barrage of quotations from Hitler at the German leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament’s centre-left political group. What was remarkable was that our own far right party, the PVV, through its MEP Barry Madlener, found it necessary to speak out in the UKIP man’s defence.

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14 November 2010

Bangkok

Last week I devoted several days to the International Anti-Corruption Conference organised by Transparency International (TI) in Bangkok. My most important message was for the European Commission – will you at last take action against growing corruption in Europe?

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7 November 2010

Brussels and our pensions

I have been given the task by the European Parliament of writing an official 'Opinion' on a report from the European Commission which concerns our pensions. Tomorrow, the first 'exchange of views' on the issue takes place in the EP Internal Market Committee, and I will be taking a clear position against the Commission's attempts to hand our pensions over to the market, and in favour not of a new playground for insurance companies, but a solid system based on solidarity between young and old. And against, moreover, an infringement of the power to regulate these matters at the national level.

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24 October 2010

ECJ shows more interest in social rights

Until recently the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been primarily known for a range of decisions via which workers' rights were subordinated to the principle of unrestrained competition. Just this week, however, the Court surprised friend and foe with a ruling which determined that people working in catering at Heineken, who had seen their employment contracts transferred to a different firm, Albron, would not be obliged to accept a lowering of their wages or a worsening of their conditions of employment. Companies attempting to use this kind of outsourcing as a form of social dumping have been told to think again: the Court does not find it acceptable. One swallow doesn't make a summer, but in another recent decision the ECJ showed itself to be more responsive to arguments from the social good than it has been in the past. Could the social rights somewhat reluctantly included in the Lisbon Treaty at last be getting their teeth?

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16 October 2010

Is North Netherlands ready to store nuclear waste?

On 7th October Greenpeace drove a few containers full of radioactive material up to the doors of the European Parliament. By doing so the organisation was seeking to draw attention to new European Commission proposals on the storage of radioactive waste. By excluding a large number of types of waste from its proposals, the Commission is attempting to facilitate nuclear waste storage and thereby to encourage the use of nuclear energy. I will of course be keeping a close eye on these developments and exposing them, if they are indeed as negligent as Greenpeace asserts.

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3 October 2010

You can't change European legislation just like that

Following the conference of the Christian Democrats (CDA) it does indeed appear that there will be a government of the two centre-right parties, VVD and CDA, tolerated by the far right PVV. The agreement which enabled this toleration states that the new government will ensure that all European laws on immigration and asylum are made more restrictive. In my view this is a promise which cannot be kept, at least not within the government's maximum term of four years. In any case, these European laws are not nearly so lenient as these parties would have us believe.

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26 September 2010

European solidarity

September 29th will see a major demonstration by trade unions in both The Hague and Brussels. European trade unions are holding the demonstration in Brussels to protest against the one-sided policies with which the European Union and the various member states are attempting to resolve the economic crisis via swingeing cuts which go to the heart of public services and social provision. The European Commission is blind to the protests. On the very same day they will present their proposals for the introduction of sanctions against countries whose cuts don't go deep enough, while again on September 29th the European Parliament Crisis Committee will adopt an injurious report in which spending cuts also take centre stage. The gap between the street and Europe's ivory towers could hardly be wider.

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20 September 2010

Crisis Committee in Crisis

Dennis de Jong, Socialist PartyWhile the conclusions of the Dutch Parliamentary Commission on the financial crisis, chaired by SP member Jan de Wit, can count on broad cross-party support, the European Parliament’s equivalent body is heading for a confrontation, with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (PSD) attempting to block input from other groups. Prospects are that no common report will be possible in which the causes of the crisis are properly analysed and policy recommendations made as to how a further crisis might be prevented. This represents a missed opportunity.

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12 September 2010

The euro, a risk to the Dutch economy

During last year’s European election campaign, the SP took some stick for our critique of the introduction of the euro. Without the euro, the Labour Party argued, the Netherlands would be the Iceland of the EU. So what has happened since? Sweden, which retained its own currency, the Krona, is growing at a rate 4.5% faster than the European average. At the same time the financial markets are becoming extremely nervous and have dumped large quantities of Greek, Portuguese and Irish government bonds, and a new euro-crisis is far from unthinkable. As far as I’m concerned all talk of the euro as a means of assuring our economic position should therefore cease immediately. It seems much more likely that the euro could drag us into the next currency crisis.

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5 September 2010

Are Euro-MPs becoming paid applause fodder?

Once again something of a riot has broken out in the European Parliament. Last Friday every MEP received a note from the Parliament’s Christian Democrat president, Jerzy Buzek, summoning us to come and listen to the speech to be given by European Commission president Jose Barroso. Should we fail to comply, we’ll receive a fine. All of which is because Barroso is coming to make a ‘State of the Union’ speech, just as the US President does at the beginning of the parliamentary year. Quite apart from the fact that Members of the European Parliament should be able to decide for themselves where they wish to be, Barroso has neither the authority nor the power of a ‘European President’. And that’s just how it should be and how it must remain: Europe is not a federal state and the SP will have no truck with all of the fanfare designed to give the impression that it is. My presence or absence will be determined by my own decision as to whether I have, on the day, any more pressing business to attend to. And blackmail from the EP president is certainly not something I will give in to.

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