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28 February 2010

Local council elections and Europe

If, after a good election result in the local elections on 3rd March, we find ourselves in the ruling coalitions in a number of councils, but also if we are working from a position of opposition, seeking and maintaining contact with the SP's group in the European Parliament can be useful: many subjects are now determined by European rules and we can sometimes help people to deal with these rules or, where necessary, to change them. We hope then to have even more contacts with SP branches in the years to come than has already been the case.

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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. Surveillance must be improved, primarily on the national level, but I agree with the European building workers' federations when they say that the European Union also has a role to play in this.

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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. At the same time it is self-evident that such opportunistic parliamentary coalitions must never be at the cost of what separates the SP from other parties, the fact that we constantly seek direct contact with ordinary people and the organisations which represent their interests. Real successes can only be recorded if you link your work in the parliament with what you do outside.

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7 February 2010

SWIFT, SWIFTER, SWIFTEST

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. For the SP it is debatable whether in the interests of security data can be exchanged, under strict conditions, with other countries, but in this case these conditions have not been fulfilled and, moreover, parliaments have, as far as could be achieved, been pushed to one side. And so, for these reasons, we will next week again vote against.

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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. And in relation to social affairs we expect a great deal, though it isn't yet clear whether this will take the form of a further deterioration of social rights, or if it remains possible that after all something good for the rights of working people and the unemployed might come out of Brussels. A great deal will depend on the question of whether we will be sharp enough to take action when it is necessary to do so.

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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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