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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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29 August 2010

Cutbacks? Ask the Irish how they turn out…

Dennis de Jong This week a number of papers carried descriptions of the consequences of the draconian austerity policies of the Irish government: if they began by chopping here and there, they've now gone way beyond that. Mass unemployment, the population fleeing the country and negative economic 'growth' of -7.5%. And so Ireland is entering a vicious circle as a direct result of cutbacks which have had no impact on the budget deficit, because the economy, through these same cuts, is in a state of collapse. A responsible budget policy is fine, but too many cutbacks lead to a great deal of suffering. Perhaps parties in the Netherlands which want to see a hard policy of austerity, such as the right-wing VVD and CDA, should take note of this.

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22 August 2010

Consumers' rights

Dennis de JongLast week I received a visit from a lobbyist from the employers' federation who was interested in proposals from the Commission to harmonise consumers' rights throughout Europe. In his view it would be very much in the interest of businesses, and especially of small businesses, if consumers enjoyed the same rights everywhere. Of course I understand that position, but can't support it if it's achieved at the expense of the Dutch consumer. The SP will oppose any proposal which has a negative effect on these rights.

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16 August 2010

Waste

SP activist protest against the EU's waste of money

SP activists protest against the EU's waste of money

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25 July 2010

The trade union movement and public property

It's peaceful at the European Parliament at the moment, as there's almost nobody here. The SP group also takes a break, and for the next three weeks our offices will be empty, just like all the other offices. So this is an excellent opportunity to read all of those reports which as a Euro-MP one receives daily. Amongst these is an outstanding report from the European trade union movement on public services. Making use of certain new provisions contained in the Lisbon Treaty, the trade union movement wants an assurance from the European Commission that local, regional and national authorities will again be able to take their own decisions regarding public services, without being continually hampered by Brussels. The Commission would like to see everything as the 'market', and the authorities forced to farm out public services to private parties. Precisely what the Commission wants: the more market, the more opportunities for major corporations, something the Commission has been fond of for twenty years or more.

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18 July 2010

Human rights policy and the European Parliament

This week I welcomed a delegation from the Ahmadis. The Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslims, but follow their own interpretation of Islam. For this, reason in many Muslim countries, in particular Pakistan, they are discriminated against and persecuted. I always find such meetings impressive, but at the same time must explain that in relation to foreign policy the Dutch national parliament has much more power than does the European Parliament. Certainly, in the EP a large number of resolutions are adopted, but their value is purely symbolic. Only where treaties with third countries are concerned does the EP have any real say in matters.

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11 July 2010

European Ombudsman an ally in battle for greater transparency

Several weeks ago I had a lengthy discussion with the European Ombudsman during which we agreed to work together to make Brussels more transparent. The Ombudsman shares my concerns regarding the influence of major corporations on the European institutions' decisions. He expressed great interest in the action plan that I launched last year, a plan directed at both the Commission and at the European Parliament itself. This week it transpired that he had meant what he said, when he instructed the Commission, as soon as is possible, to make public the hitherto secret letters from Porsche, sent in 2007 with the clear intention of influencing the Commission in its preparation of a decision regarding CO2 emissions from cars. The Commission has resisted this tooth and nail, which would hardly have been necessary had they had nothing to hide.

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22 June 2010

European Council puts member states into straight-jacket of austerity

On 17th June the leaders of Europe's governments adopted, as expected, a number of conclusions in relation to the economic crisis. It is disappointing to see the European Council laying such a one-sided emphasis on austerity. The thumbscrews are being turned, the sanctions on failure to make cuts increased. But any attention to rewarding work or effective measures against poverty is missing, while not a single word was said about the need for good public services. The only glimmer of light was that the heads of government were in agreement that surveillance of banks must be improved and that member states should introduce a bank levy.

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13 June 2010

Spending cuts in Brussels, and international solidarity

The last few weeks have of course been emotional and tumultuous, as a result of Kartika Liotard's sudden decision to resign from the SP. Nevertheless, day-to-day work continues. Last Friday I received the good news that the United Left, the European Parliamentary political group to which the SP belongs, has decided to nominate me as a substitute member of the newly established temporary committee to prepare the ground for negotiations over the EU's multi-annual budget. This is an extremely fascinating task, because it is on the basis of this multi-annual budget that the Netherlands' contribution over the coming years will be determined, as will the EU's priorities.

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