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Blog

5 February 2017

Let’s put a stop to the Brussels-Strasbourg merry-go-round, Minister Koenders

Foreign Minister Bert Koenders appears frequently in the media criticising the European Parliament. That’s fine with me, because there is of course a great deal to criticise about all the waste and the conflicts of interest which surround the EP. But he went too far when he attacked the Parliament over the fact that once a month we move lock, stock and barrel to Strasbourg. The fact is that by far the majority of MEPs find this monthly trip irritating in the extreme. There is, however, nothing we can do to change it, as that is in the hands of the member state governments. That was why in 2015, in the runup to the Dutch EU presidency, I contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to propose that they suggest an alternative to the EP for the city of Strasbourg, to make up for its lost revenue. I’m still waiting to hear back, but on Thursday the Dutch Parliament in The Hague will host the State of the Union debate, to which MEPs are also invited. I fancy a nice confrontation with the minister. Who knows, we might at last be able to do business.

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29 January 2017

Points of agreement between Timmermans and Trump

This weekend has a great deal of justified criticism aimed at the policies of brand new US President Donald Trump, in particular his closure of the country’s borders to travellers from a number of Islamic countries. European Commission Vice President (and former Dutch Foreign Minister) Frans Timmermans is amongst those who have already protested. Yet this same Timmermans has co-authored the plan, that appeared this week, aimed at putting a stop to immigration from North Africa. Following the Turkey deal, Timmermans now wants to see a Libya deal. Of course the Commission’s choice of wording is less unpleasant than that of Trump, but the message and its effects will be similar: refugees, find salvation - but elsewhere. It already seems a long time ago that politicians dared assert that people who are persecuted are in need of protection.

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22 January 2017

Dutch centre-right parties sign pact for European superstate

In the runup to the coming elections for the national parliament, the two centre-right parties, the governing VVD and the opposition CDA, are loudly declaring that they are against a European superstate. That’s what makes it remarkable that so little attention has been paid to the pact concluded by their political groups in the European Parliament, respectively the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and the European People’s Party (EPP). The pact states that they will work towards amendment of the EU Treaty on the basis of the Verhofstadt Report, which advocates the creation of a European Finance Minister, European taxes, and the extension of the EU’s powers to areas of legislation currently under national control, such as pensions, public services and taxation. What my fellow MEPs Wim van de Camp (CDA) and Hank van Baalen (VVD) are calling for is simply a European government. Think on that when you’re in the polling booth on March 15th.

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15 January 2017

First steps towards a European Whistleblowers’ Centre

Say you find out that the Italian mafia benefits from European subsidies. That’s not a hypothetical example either, because loads of such cases of fraud are known. You need plenty of courage to report a case of this kind to the EU institutions. The protection of whistleblowers is still by no means guaranteed. That’s why I’m pleased that the Budgetary Control Committee, of which I am a member, last week unanimously adopted my report, in which I make concrete proposals for such protection, including the establishment of a European Whistleblowers’ Centre like the one we recently set up in the Netherlands as a result of the efforts of party colleague Ronald van Raak, MP.

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8 January 2017

The week of dishonest men

In a single week in Brussels three dishonest men have been in the news and the only question now is whether they will leave the stage or grow even more powerful. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, turns out to be even more intensely involved in tax dodging by multinationals than recently seemed to be the case. Austrian Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who was caught not long ago making sexist remarks and has been involved in a case of conflict of interest, is now apparently being envisaged as the new Commission Vice-President. And to make matters worse the big corporations’ champion, Guy Verhofstadt, has declared his candidacy for president of the European Parliament. With friends like these, the EU has no need of enemies.

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1 January 2017

Building on the ruins

Eurocritical politicians are often put down as gloomy types who are always negative. The opposite is true. If the SP has criticisms to level at the greed merchants in Brussels, it’s because we believe, as do most people in the Netherlands and in Europe, that an end must be put to this neoliberal, interfering, wasteful “Brussels”. We do, however, want to build a Europe in which we cooperate to achieve goals for which there is support, things which are useful. Building on the ruins which European politicians, with the European Commission to the fore, have made of the EU, is a challenge, but it can be done, and with just the same enthusiasm as the Europhiles exhibit in appearing so happy with the actually existing ‘Brussels’.

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18 December 2016

Time to unite the left in Europe

Last week it was officially announced that I had been elected vice president of the SP’s political group in the European Parliament, the United Left, known by its French acronym as the GUE. Together with the president and three other vice presidents, we will be working to increase the visibility of our social alternatives for Europe. We are a collective leadership, in which I will be representing in particular the SP and our sister parties. These are in the main members of the sub-group within the United Left, the Nordic Green Left. It means a lot of work, but if we are to defeat the extreme right in Europe, we will have to combine our forces and I’m happy to make a contribution to this.

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11 December 2016

The danger of a ‘Grand Coalition’ in the European Parliament

Political groups are free to work with each other, but in the European Parliament the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Party of Socialists and Democrats (PSD), together with the centre-right Alliance of liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) have formed a ‘Grand Coalition’ which is starting to present a downright danger. It’s stampeding in the direction of a federal Europe, and the general public who want just the opposite – ‘less Brussels’ – are pushed aside as people who just don’t get it. Systematically the influence of smaller, critical political groups is being eroded. This is a way of doing things which is scarcely democratic, and which is unworthy of a parliament.

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4 December 2016

Neoliberal spin versus clear language of the Modern Left

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte put in an appearance this week at the ALDE (centre-right liberals) European Parliament group conference held on this occasion in Warsaw. There, he warned that Europe could fall apart if the politicians didn’t listen to what the public were clearly saying: not still more Brussels, please. It’s just a pity that the government he heads wants precisely the opposite: more economic diktats from Brussels, a European Public Prosecutor, a European security force and even intensive European defence cooperation. But things didn’t work out so well for Rutte. The conference which the SP held yesterday with a number of sister parties in Maastricht was where you wanted to be to hear clear language. After twenty-five years of neoliberal deception it’s time for a new EU treaty which puts the national parliaments back in the driver’s seat. While the neoliberals twist and turn, the modern left is clear: No to this EU; build a new form of European cooperation.

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27 November 2016

Verhofstadt is building his federal Europe on the backs of the British

The gulf could not be any bigger. Ever more citizens of its member states want nothing more to do with the European Union. Meanwhile, the Belgian chair of the Liberal group – known as the ALDE – Guy Verhofstadt, has proposed that United Kingdom citizens who wish to do so should, in the wake of Brexit, be allowed to pay to take out EU citizenship. This is a conscious step on  Verhofstadt’s part towards a United States of Europe, as up to now ‘EU citizenship’ has come along with the nationality of one of its member states. Verhofstadt is blind and deaf to public concerns, yet he is being recommended by the outgoing chair of the European Parliament, German social democrat Martin Schulz, to be the EP’s representative in the Brexit negotiations.

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