21 January 2018

Germany's “Grand Coalition” is same old bad news

One of the big problems with Martin Schulz when he was the putative centre-left president of the European Parliament was that he almost always went along with the right. That meant that important decisions were cooked up in advance with the centre-right European People's Party and on occasion with the Liberal group too. When he left, the Italian president of the centre-left group, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats promised to put an end to this 'Grand Coalition'. Now, however, just over half of the SPD's elected representatives in Germany have voted in favour of joining a 'Grand Coalition' government – known by its German acronym as the 'GroKo' – and Schulz can repeat his tricks. Bad news for the Federal Republic, bad news for whatever was left of German social democracy's trustworthiness, and bad news too for the European Parliament.

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14 January 2018

The Commission has no regard for small businesses

The European umbrella group for organisations of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), known by its French acronym UEAPME, is sounding a warning: the European Commission wants to change the definition of 'SME' to allow bigger firms to come under it. The EU support which SMEs can access could, the Commission argues, lead to too many of them deliberately remaining small, not seeking to grow beyond the size at which they would fail to qualify for aid. UEAPME has not noticed any such thing, but is of the opinion that small firms have an important social and cultural function which would be undermined by growth. I completely agree with this. CEOs of multinationals get enough support already, but small independent firms need protection.

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7 January 2018

European Commission must keep its hands off the right to strike

By it's own account the European Commission is exceptionally socially-minded. You only have to look at the Social Pillar, the document solemnly adopted during the European Summit in Gothenburg on 17th November last year. The reality is something else: the Commission, for example, wants to restrict air traffic controllers' right to strike. Such actions, they argue, lead to delays and cancelled flights and that's bad for the economy. It's clear that Brussels is once again bowing to the employers' demands. The trade unions have started a petition to defend the right to strike. The English version is here and I urge everyone to sign it.
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1 January 2018

Wishing you a militant 2018!

If one single development characterised 2017, it was clearly the sharpening of contradictions. More and more people discovered that inequalities in our society don't fall from the sky, but are consciously cultivated under neoliberalism. And unfortunately the European Union has turned out to be a neoliberal breeding ground. That too is becoming clearer, as is the fact that neither the heads of member state governments nor the European Commission have any time for those who are critical of the transfer of ever more power to Brussels. Waking up to a problem is an important first step, but on its own it isn't enough. Only if we get together to make our voices heard loud and clear in 2018 will there be any chance of a change.
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17 December 2017

To the European Commission, privatisation is still sacred

It hasn't had much attention, but the lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has discovered that the European Commission spent a cool €800,000 on a study of publicly-owned companies. KPMG, which will conduct the research, must in particular look into the advantages of liberalisation and privatisation. The study must be completed by the end of the year, but it's clear that the Commission has not yet given up chasing down public services. On the contrary, according to CEO, the study will serve as the basis for recommendations which it will make in the framework of economic governance.

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10 December 2017

Human rights for everyone?

Today is the International Day of Human Rights. And yesterday was the International Anti-Corruption Day. These may not have made front page news, and yet they are important, especially now human rights are being undermined from all sides and corruption is rampant. I'll always carry on resisting those who argue that human rights are a western or liberal invention. But as well as being universal, human rights are indivisible. Social rights go hand in hand with classic human rights: they depend on each other, a fact often forgotten in the west.

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3 December 2017

'For each other' in Europe, too

What an excellent gathering it was that the SP organised this afternoon in Breda under the aegis of our new initiative, the theatre 'Voor Elkaar' – 'For Each Other'. A hall full of people convinced that a real society is possible, one based on fellow-feeling and solidarity. That's something which you can organise in your own neighbourhood or your own country, but what about at European level? It's tough, but it can be done, and the SP's European Parliament group is playing a role in this, by laying bare the relations of power, by continually combating those whose central focus is on the market and not on people, and by actively bringing forward and supporting proposals in the European Parliament which point towards a better society.

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26 November 2017

Santa Claus gets a long wishlist from the EU

The European Union's wishlist is long indeed. All in all, it's the member states who will have to play Santa Claus and pay double the amount they currently do. In exchange they'll get a European army, one European minister or several of them, European inspection services and, most importantly, a large number of funds from which they will be able to get some of their money back, as long as they don't buckle under the piles of bureaucratic papers involved. I'm referring to the EU budget, which from 2020 would be doubled, at least if it was up to the chair of the European Parliament, the Italian Antonio Tajani. So we can only hope that when Santa Claus comes calling, he'll fly past Tajani's chimney tops and find better ways to use his money.

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19 November 2017

Why the European Medicines Agency should not go to Amsterdam

Tomorrow the European ministers meet to decide where the European Medicines Agency (EMA), currently to be found in London, should relocate, which it must do as a result of Brexit.  Once again there's a great deal of horse-trading to be done, and behind closed doors, because the negotiations are secret.  It's not only this secrecy, but the content of the likely agreements, which make this from the word go a missed opportunity. The EMA's responsibility is the approval of medicines, a matter of enormous importance to us all.  This is precisely why this Agency should not be hidden away somewhere and in that way handed on a plate to lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry.  

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