20 November 2016

Still a long way to go for social justice in the EU

Each year the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German thinktank linked to the media giant of the same name, publishes its index of social justice. As in previous years, the latest edition shows that this form of justice remains a distant prospect. In most member states things are still worse than they were before the financial crisis. Little attention is being paid to inequality in society, and poverty is on the rise rather than falling. This isn’t an encouraging picture, and represents a slap in the face for all those budget fetishists like our own Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Not only Bertelsmann, but also the European Commission itself has now come to the conclusion that state investment wouldn’t be such a crazy idea. It’s indeed sad that we can talk of seven lost years in which all member states alike imposed spending cuts and in so doing held back economic recovery. If only people had listened to the SP and in particular the party’s leader Emile Roemer when he stood up against the 3% norm laid down by Brussels.

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13 November 2016

Humanity in short supply in European hotspots

The Dutch government is proud of Europe’s asylum policy. The number of asylum-seekers in the Netherlands has fallen substantially and the uncontrolled march across Europe is at an end. That’s all undoubtedly true, but in my view an asylum policy can only be described as a success if it doesn’t violate human rights and offers refugees effective protection. The situation in the ‘hotspots’ in Italy and Greece is appalling, however. Everyone seems to be averting their eyes. That’s unacceptable.

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6 November 2016

Travel ban for Euro-MPs?

The news agency Politico this week launched a frontal attack on the wastefulness of Euro-MPs who consider that they must travel throughout the world in luxury in order to develop and maintain contacts. This year I’m Rapporteur for the European Parliament’s financial accountability, reason enough to dive deeper into this matter. And sure enough there’s a lot of weeding to be done in this particular garden. Not every journey to a country beyond the European Union is useless, but accountability could be improved. We have no need for champagne diplomacy.

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30 October 2016

In the US as in the EU, the multinationals are the real election winners

All the fuss surrounding the American elections notwithstanding, Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump offers no real choice. Either will in the end be there to defend the interests of the multinationals. Had Bernie Sanders been a candidate, there would have been something to choose from. You see the same in the European Parliament: even if the centre-left Socialists and Democrats and the centre-right European People’s Party are often at each other’s throats, the two biggest political groups always in the end vote for laws that benefit only the multinationals. An example of this was provided by the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.

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23 October 2016

Five advisors from the European Commission given power over national budgets

This week the European Commission announced that they had selected ‘in a fully transparent manner’ five members of the new advisory council on national budgetary policy, the so-called ‘European Fiscal Board’. The European Parliament was not involved in the selection. And so once again we see a new organ, far away from the European public, which will soon be able to issue important advice on the running of national budgets. The Commission will hide behind the advice notes when it comes to making its ‘recommendations’ to the member states. This has really nothing to do with democracy and transparency. It’s a pity that both the Dutch national Parliament and the EP have just sat back and let this happen.

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16 October 2016

Why does Timmermans not report corruption at the EU?

Last Friday the European Parliament Transparency Intergroup, a cross-party network of MEPs, sent an angry letter to Commissioner Frans Timmermans. This year the Commission once again published a report on the member states’ anti-corruption policies, but it will include no chapter on the fight against corruption within the European Union’s own institutions. After the real mess surrounding the European Commissioners’ moonlighting, you’d expect the Commission to make this a spearhead of its approach. Timmermans refuses to do so, however, without coming up with any clear arguments against. We are in no way satisfied with this. If necessary we will demand a plenary debate on the matter, because if the Commission knows so much about how the member states should combat corruption, it should be easy enough for it to hold a mirror up to itself.

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9 October 2016

Bayer and Monsanto – no happy marriage

Shortly in the European Parliament we’ll be discussing once more the annual report on EU competition policy. You’d be amazed by what’s possible. European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager recently answered my letter on Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto by saying she had received as yet no report of this, but she would certainly be looking into it. In my view the takeover should, however, have set alarm bells ringing, not only because of Monsanto’s questionable reputation, but principally because it raises the question as to when enough is enough, and when corporations become ‘too big to fail’. We have absolutely no need for such a chemical industry giant. If a takeover of this kind van happen under the existing policy, then in my view that policy should be changed.

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2 October 2016

The SP is sometimes, of course, in favour of European legislation

The SP is well-known to be an EU-critical party, and we are certainly that. No interference from Brussels and an end to the 30-year-old bond between the petty dictators in that city and the multinationals – these are what we stand for, along with such things as putting a stop to the revolving door which has delivered nice jobs to ex-Commissioners like Barroso, Kroes and now also the Dane Connie Hedegaard at major financial institutions and corporations. This revolving door leads, as anyone can see, to an unhealthy conflict of interests. But the SP works hard also on legislation which is good for ordinary people, such as the EU directive on legal aid which is a help in the fight against class justice. This week the results of the tough negotiations with the member states on this, which I conducted as the European Parliament’s Rapporteur on the proposal, will come before the member states, and we’ll be voting in favour.

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25 September 2016

The media too must get used to the end of ‘market think’

The national daily NRC’s comments on the possible re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party are strange indeed. Apparently his re-election would mean that Labour will be out of power for the next twenty years. Pure tunnel vision: apparently only parties that continue to believe in the market as a solution for everything can expect to be elected to government. We in the SP believe in people’s power. If hundreds of thousands voted for Corbyn and in doing so voted also for an end to the neoliberal thought which has characterised Labour since Tony Blair, it isn’t a ticket for permanent opposition, but the beginning of a new era.

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11 September 2016

Lessons of ‘Dieselgate’ - No to marketisation when our health and safety are at stake

Next week the entire European Parliament will head off to Strasbourg once again. On Monday evening I am taking part in a hearing of the committee of enquiry into what has been dubbed ‘Dieselgate’, the scandal of fraudulent software in cars. The European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, will come along to explain to us that she is not completely au fait with the precise situation with regard to this dodgy software, because the member states have not given her all of the necessary information. The EP will be eager to help get her more power in relation to the member states, but the real problems begin elsewhere: Bieńkowska is committed to competition between the establishments which test cars, as well as many other products. I’m curious to see how she reacts to the idea of reversing privatisation and in the future allowing only non-profit state-owned establishments to conduct such tests.

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