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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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19 February 2017

For some MEPs, their pockets are never well enough lined

This week the public broadcaster NOS has been giving a great deal of attention to the fact that there is a significant shortfall in the voluntary pension provision for people who were Euro-MPs in the period prior to 2009. I have received a number of reactions from people angry that these gilt-edged pensions should be being paid at all. I completely agree with these people, certainly when you consider that pension payments in the Netherlands have been frozen for years. In my report on the European Parliament’s accounts I am demanding therefore that a plan be developed, and quickly, which will allow the ex-MEPs themselves to make up the shortfall. Enough is enough.

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12 February 2017

Dijsselbloem the Terrible

In the Labour Party campaign for the forthcoming Dutch general election, Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is showing his social face. Yet in reality he has spent the last few years, as chair of the eurogroup, forcing the Greeks down into absolute poverty. Even the International Monetary Fund is internally divided: the people cannot endure such poverty, so great a collapse of public services, and so high a rate of unemployment. But Dijsselbloem continues to make demands: further reductions in pensions, and yet more interference in the labour market, so that the few jobs which exist no longer pay enough for a person to live. In the 16th Century Ivan the Terrible was the Russian ruler. Amongst other things he so restricted the peasants' freedom of movement that they became serfs. Dijsselbloem is doing the same to the Greeks. In contravention of internationally recognised social rights, he is subjugating the Greek people. Dijsselbloem the Terrible…

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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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