8 April 2018
The European Commission, and in particular the Dutch Commissioner responsible for such matters, Frans Timmermans, are showing a great deal of concern over the decline of the rule of law in Hungary and Poland, including the lack of an independent judiciary, the extent of corruption and nepotism, and encroachment on journalists’ freedom. All important matters, but the EU’s own institutions, as well as the member states themselves, can also be found lacking in these areas. Below I give a number of examples.
25 March 2018
This Tuesday, 27th March, my entire day at the European Parliament will be taken up by discussions of scandals. In the morning, it's the Hungarian government's fraud; in the afternoon, the Commission's policy on integrity, specifically the appointment of Martin Selmayr as Commission Secretary-General. Of course there is a difference between the corrupt behaviour of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, suspected of corruption and of the evasion of EU public procurement rules, and that of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Both are doing a fine job for their chums, because although he may have followed all the regulations, it's still astonishing that last week Juncker threatened to resign if his European People's Party (EPP, a centre-right group and the biggest in the EP) colleagues failed to support Selmayr's appointment. I would say that both Juncker and Orban are suffering from the arrogance of power.
18 March 2018
On 21st March we will concentrating first and foremost on our local elections, because while we may be the European Parliament group, we'll all be off to vote for our SP candidates and to celebrate their success in our own branches. Before I can do that, however, there's a vote in the European Parliament and the situation remains tense. In the Internal Market Committee the likely vote on the Services E-card, with which the Commission proposes to promote the free movement of services across borders, is evenly balanced. But the proposal is absurd, as evidenced by the fact that not only the unions, but also a large proportion of employers are opposed. The card will make things easier for abusive firms and self-employed people who lack proper qualifications to establish themselves throughout the EU. Hopefully common sense will prevail and the proposal will go straight into the recycling bin.