14 April 2019

Transparency behind closed doors?

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.

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11 April 2019

'Enhanced legitimacy, credibility, impact, and relevance': SP Senator's resolution improves working of Council of Europe

Following hours of debate and months of preparatory work, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this week agreed to proposals from SP Senator Tiny Kox aimed at improving the functioning of the Assembly and the Council of which it forms part.

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7 April 2019

Thanks to Timmermans, compulsory lobby register put on hold

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.

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27 March 2019

Brexit Law excludes Parliament from deliberation

With an eye on Britain's departure from the European Union, the Dutch government has been given a mandate by Parliament to take measures, should they see it as necessary, without the approval or involvement of the legislature, even if these measures go against current law. In the view of SP Senator Bastiaan van Apeldoorn, Parliament should not be cooperating in its exclusion in this way, which is why the party voted against the Brexit Law during yesterday's session. “Of course the SP approves of the government making preparations for Brexit and what Brexit will mean for the Netherlands,” says Van Apeldoorn. “This law, however, gives far-reaching emergency powers to the government without giving any decent definition of an 'emergency'.”

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26 March 2019

National parliaments to move to adopt effective rules for authors' rights

The European Parliament today adopted the now notorious directive on authors' rights. The SP abstained in the vote. SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong explains: “It remained a difficult decision right to the end. As I wrote recently, it's important to us that artists receive a fair reward for their creativity. But we don't want to see disproportionate filters when you upload something. Unfortunately we weren't successful in having the directive completely clarified on this point. The intention was good, to make the tech giants pay artists for their products. The SP will continue to work for this in the Dutch Parliament. But this directive was still so unclear that we felt we had to abstain.”

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24 March 2019

Bitter struggle over authors' rights

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.

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14 March 2019

Stop the race to the bottom, fight the exploitation of workers

Many products on sale in the Netherlands are made elsewhere in the world, often under atrocious working conditions and for a much lower wage than they would be paid here. In the last fifty years a large slice of Dutch industry has decamped to low wage countries. The result? Competition between Dutch workers and workers abroad, the consequence of which is a race to the bottom. According to free market politicians and the multinationals, wages in the Netherlands must also be lowered if we want to compete with foreign countries. The ordinary Dutch or foreign worker gains no benefit from this, but big corporations have the last laugh as they see their profits explode.

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13 March 2019

At last a European approach to fraudulent invoices

Foto: CC0

In 2013 the European Parliament adopted by an overwhelming majority a report by SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong, in which he called for a European approach to fraudulent invoices. Today his recommendations were finally embodied in legislation. Explaining the new law, De Jong said: “In the Netherlands the Fraud Help Desk works well. It's mostly small businesses that become the victims of false invoices and similar kinds of fraud. If, however, the invoices are sent from outside the country, it's very difficult for the Fraud Help Desk. That's why the organisation for small and medium-sized enterprises, MKB-NL has long been urging the creation of a network of help desks throughout the EU. The directive voted on today will mean that such a network is at last in prospect.”

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10 March 2019

Do citizens in Europe now have a say or not?

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.

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