4 February 2018

The European Parliament is big enough

We vote this week on a report which proposes that the 73 seats which will be vacated as a result of Brexit won't simply be given up.. Instead, 27 of them will be used to bring about a fairer division between the member states, while the rest will constitute a transnational European list. What this would mean for us in the Netherlands is that we would each have two votes, one for the Dutch national list and one for the European list. The Parliament in The Hague has already stated the official view that it would like to see the EP reduced to 678 seats.

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28 January 2018

End EU subsidies for asocial corporations

One of the themes of the negotiations on the new multi-annual budget, due to start this year, will be to determine the conditions under which the European Commission will decide which companies EU subsidies will be given to. When it comes to subsidies paid to the member states, qualification depends on 'good economic behaviour'. How such behaviour is defined is determined, moreover, entirely by the Commission via the recommendations to member states in the framework of economic governance. For the most part that comes down to austerity policies and demolition of public services. So it's odd that in relation to subsidies to big corporations the Commission suddenly becomes more reticent, though I do have a few ideas on this. What we should certainly not be doing is extending subsidies to firms which behave in a thoroughly asocial fashion, of which there are rather a lot of examples.

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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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