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Blog

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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7 May 2017

Exciting week for the franchise world

On 11th May the European Parliament Internal Market Committee will vote on my report on abuses in the world of the franchised retail outlet and how to tackle them. It seems that only in the Netherlands does the organisation of independent retailers, which includes many franchisees, have a voice. MEPs from other member states vigorously deny that anything’s wrong in the sector. This is very often the case when it comes to disputes between small and big firms. They remain unnoticed for many years, with small operators staying silent because of their dependence on those granting franchises. So in the world of the small firm as much as elsewhere, the truth is that only by getting organised collectively can you put an end to abuses.

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1 May 2017

On Labour Day, let’s demand a reset: Workers’ Rights 2.0

Today, May 1st, it is once again Labour Day, when we celebrate workers’ rights, or if you prefer, the rights of working people. Yet things aren’t going so well for these rights. Despite all the fine words, the European Union has spent the last few decades actively participating in the erosion of these rights, while there are now, furthermore, numerous new challenges. One subject of current debate in the European Parliament is the digital market. This offers excellent new opportunities, but there is a downside: workforces the world over are being played off against each other via so-called crowdworking platforms, and people are being redefined as self-employed and exploited in the ‘sharing economy’ by groups such as Uber. Little attention is paid to any of this in Brussels, while we badly need ‘labour rights 2.0’ to be maintained in the time of digitalisation.

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23 April 2017

The long arm of Brussels

The most left candidate in the French presidential election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, just failed to make the second round, which will now be contested by Marine Le Pen and Emanuel Macron. The election being today, this has only just emerged, but what has been clear over the last few days is how the established European order has turned en masse against candidates for office who are seeking to shake up the European Union. In this they are doing neither the public in Europe nor the EU itself a service: the longer the EU remains the plaything of eurocrats and corporate lobbyists, the greater the chance will be that the whole mess will fall apart.

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9 April 2017

Modern Left shows how European cooperation can still inspire

This week I will be accompanying SP Senate leader Tiny Kox and national secretary Hans van Heijningen to a meeting of the ‘Modern Left’ – an informal group of like-minded parties - in Cyprus. Amongst other things we’ll be discussing the left’s answer to social discontent in – and about – the European Union. There’ll be no complicated negotiations around resolutions or final declarations. Our only aim is to inspire each other and together take a stand against the neoliberalism which has the EU and most of its member states firmly in its grip. “Unity in Diversity” is the EU’s official motto. There’s little of that on show in Brussels, but as the Modern Left we are putting the same idea into practice.

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2 April 2017

Commissioner Bulc’s crocodile tears

Following her appointment in 2014, Slovenian Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc gave the impression that she would be dealing with the issue of exploitation of lorry drivers. The European transport unions have learnt instead that she is a harsh neoliberal who has no intention of addressing exploitation, but on the contrary, wants to see even fiercer competition between drivers. They are planning to react with action: in two months Bulc’s plans will no longer be provisional; definite proposals will be issued.

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26 March 2017

More inspiration from Amersfoort than from Rome

It was a fortuitous coincidence: the ceremony in Rome on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the EEC, and the SP party council in Amersfoort, occurred on the same weekend. I was really happy that I had not gone to Rome but was instead at the party council where we looked at last week's general election. I was pleased not only because of the constructive discussions and Emile Roemer's inspiring speech, but also because the media always give a misleading account of what occurs at SP meetings. The party council was and is harmonious and optimistic about the future, but I've not been able to read that anywhere.

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19 March 2017

Which EU are the heads of government going to pledge themselves to on March 25th?

On 25th March the heads of the governments of the European Union’s member states will assemble in Rome to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the EU’s founding treaty, the treaty to which that city gave its name. The European Commission, together with the Maltese EU presidency, would like to take this opportunity to issue a solemn declaration in order to give the EU a fresh lift. One thing is indeed clear, and that is that the EU will be playing an even greater role in internal security and in defence policy. At the same time the meat will still consist of market-oriented economic policies, with at best a thin social gravy poured over it. So this Declaration will certainly not be any cause for celebration for ordinary people in Europe.

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13 March 2017

SP group to invite EU’s victims to party in European Parliament

March 21st will be a day of celebrations at the European Parliament in Brussels. The festivities, which include meetings in the hall used for plenary meetings, will last the whole day and are being held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Every Euro-MP has been given the right to invite five members of the public to a real ‘citizen’s parliament’ to be held that afternoon. Anne-Marie Mineur and I are therefore delighted to be able to bring ten people, all expenses paid, to Brussels for the day, the idea being that each will make it clear why he or she feels that they are a victim of the EU. It’s time the EU got some of this thrown back at it.

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