14 April 2019
Next week is the last Strasbourg week before the European elections. The working week begins Monday evening with two hearings on, respectively, conflicts of interest and political appointments, both in the presence of Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Günther Oettinger. The name connected to the issue of conflict of interest is that of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, into whose company Agrofert EU moneys have flowed. As for political appointments, we are of course thinking of the appointment of Martin Selmayr to the post of Secretary-General of the European Commission, though there have also been dodgy goings-on in the Parliament itself. In short, controversial matters. But what has the EP done? The decision has been to hold the hearings behind closed doors. Evidently there's a lot to hide, but I'll be certainly be protesting this secrecy during the hearings.
7 April 2019
European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is out campaigning. Trekking from town to town he clearly has less time for his own work at the European Commission. The rules do allow Commissioners to campaign for the European elections, but they must first have completed their own work. And in the case of the Lobby Register, it's clear that Timmermans hasn't. Instead of taking part in decisive negotiations with the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers in the week beginning April 15th, Timmermans is crying off. He claims that this is because he isn't happy with the position adopted by the EP and the Council, though the Parliament negotiators say that he's simply being obstructive. And this is the Commissioner who always prides himself on his fight for more transparency. That image has now gone for good. At decisive moments he always lets it drop.
24 March 2019
Sometimes it's a simple matter deciding which way to vote in the European Parliament. If the matter at hand concerns neoliberal proposals for liberalisation and privatisation, for example, in general we'd be against. Sometimes, however, it's a great deal more difficult. Whichever way you vote, the outcome is never perfect. That is the case with the directive on authors' rights. The SP wants to see the internet being as free as possible, but we also want artists and writers to be fairly rewarded for their creativity. After studying the issue in depth and consulting all sorts of experts, we have decided to vote for the protection of artists, including for material which can be found on sites such as Youtube.
10 March 2019
Our mailboxes are filling up with emails. This is the result of an action this Tuesday in Strasbourg encouraging a vote against the reform of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). The ECI gives citizens the right and means to request legislative proposals. But the right to set up one's own website to collect signatures to back a request is now under pressure, as the European Commission wants to control the entire process. At first sight, then, the concerns over this seemed justified. When I studied the text more closely, however, it turned out that this wasn't the case. It's striking that such a misunderstanding can occur in relation to the ECI, of all things, and it shows once again how great is the gap between the European Parliament and the public.