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30 July 2017

What can you do about Greece’s anti-social judges?

In recent weeks a great deal of justified criticism has been levelled at the Polish government’s proposals, which have the support of the country’s Parliament, to give the holders of political power the right to hire and fire judges. Judges should be independent so that when necessary they can protect the citizenry from governmental power. But what can you do about rulings from national judges that involve a direct attack on social rights, as was recently the case in Greece? The left Greek government was immediately lumbered with a major problem. Did the division of powers have to be so thorough that the government could not criticise such a ruling?

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24 July 2017

European Court leaves young workers out in the cold

On 19th July the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that it was acceptable for workers to be shown the door on their 25th birthday, because at that point in the full adult minimum wage kicks in and they become too expensive. So it’s clearly okay for minimum youth wages to be far below the level for older workers, and in the meantime young workers can go to hell. Two weeks ago the relevant committee of the Council of Europe – not an EU body but an older treaty organisation of which virtually all European countries are members – did take account of young people in its surveillance of the application of the European Social Charter, coming to precisely the opposite conclusion. No wonder that the European Commission isn’t in any rush to sign up to the Social Charter, which would after all put them under pressure to meet social norms.

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17 July 2017

Internet services from abroad are now cheaper. Should we rejoice?

A few weeks ago new EU rules were introduced making phone calls, text messages and information  sent via the internet  the same price from other member states as they are within the Netherlands. Dutch former European Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding were jubilant:  you see, the EU is there for you too! But dig a little deeper and you’ll find all sorts of exceptions and that the whole thing is pretty complicated. And dig still deeper than that and the question will arise: if there really is a market for telecommunications, why does the EU have to stick its oar in? Isn’t such communication everyone’s right and isn’t it then a service for everyone?

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9 July 2017

So what kind of European cooperation do we want to see?

Last week I wrote about the plans to further the project for a European superstate. I received a large postbag in reaction to this. People were shocked by how far these plans had got, but others wanted to know how the SP would like to see European cooperation organised. You can find the broad lines in our election manifestos: yes to cooperation, no to a superstate, and so no to a European government. Yet for all of those European Commissioners who see their right to exist as resting on the issuing of ever more fresh EU directives and regulations, this won’t do at all. So we can do without them, and we have a lot more suggestions.

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2 July 2017

Pressure building up again for Superstate Europe

You can read now in ever more media that the European Union is developing a renewed élan. It’s said that citizens of other member states see the problems in Great Britain and all of a sudden are keen on having a strong EU. The European Commission wants an open discussion on the Union’s future, yet at the same time carries on irritably building a superstate, complete with a Minister of Finance, European taxes and a European army. Even the ceremony following Helmut Kohl’s death was used to demonstrate that the European state can organise a ‘state funeral’, complete with ‘national’ anthem. There’s only one answer to all of this: clarity regarding our critique of the existing system.

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25 June 2017

European Commission still sees market as more important than people

This week I took part in trade union protests against new proposals from the European Commission which will only make social dumping easier. The issue is the introduction of the ‘e-card’. Enforcement of regulations on working conditions will be made more difficult, as inspectorates will be obliged to accept the e-card issued in the worker’s country of domicile. The e-card gives information on the individual’s skills and his or her social security status. Even if it’s clear to the inspectorate that there are flaws in this information, they can do nothing. This is absurd. We’ve had just about enough of exploitation and oppression.

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11 June 2017

Of old men and mass meetings

We saw it in the US with Bernie Sanders, with Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France, and this week in Great Britain with Jeremy Corbyn: old men who have managed with their socialist message to attract thousands of young people. Change is in the air and the end of neoliberalism appears to be in sight. In Brussels such things are not dwelt upon: people would rather look to a restored Franco-German axis. This will turn out to have been a fatal error: if the EU continues to ignore the call for change, it’s doomed.

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4 June 2017

EU still has no solution to the problem of asylum policy

Two weeks ago the European Commission presented its twelfth progress report on the relocation from Italy and Greece of refugees. The Commission is doing its best to put a brave face on things and say that everything is going just fine. But go through it and you can see that without real European asylum centres nothing will ever be achieved. It’s still nothing more than a sticking plaster on a serious wound.

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21 May 2017

How committed to social rights is Juncker?

Last week the European Parliament political group to which the SP is affiliated, the United European Left (GUE-NGL), had a visit from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. The discussion, which lasted a good hour, focused among other things on social rights. It was striking that Juncker is still trying to distance himself from budgetary fetishism. People, he said, have suffered enough. Now it’s time for investment. When it comes to binding social rights, however, Juncker doesn’t want to know, preferring to stick with the vague principles included in the Commission’s total analysis of the member states which it makes in the framework of European Economic Governance. As for the fight against social dumping, here also the Commission is failing to take any major steps. In the meantime, they want a lot more say over the member states’ social policies. We will have to intensify still further, therefore, our struggle for a social Europe.

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