SP tells left MEPs: ‘Enlargement increasingly unpopular in Netherlands’

10 May 2006

SP tells left MEPs: ‘Enlargement increasingly unpopular in Netherlands’

On May 8th-9th the United Left Group of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL), in which the SP participates, met in Prague to discuss the results of the enlargement of the EU in May, 2004. SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer told the meeting that “The Dutch public is becoming increasingly critical of the EU and of its enlargement. And in the new member states themselves the downside of the process is coming increasingly to the fore.” He found little dissent from this view.

GUE/NGL chair Francis Wurtz opened the meeting with a speech which concluded that enlargement had certainly not been the success trumpeted in the European Commission’s rcent annual report. True, investment was up, but no thought ha been given to the social or environmental effects of this investment. Unemployment remained high and the gap between old and new member states was growing. Only big corporations had benefited, and the question now was “How can we make enlargement a success from a democratic, economic and social point of view and in terms of resistance to the neoliberal policies of the European Commission as laid down in the Lisbon Strategy?”

Following Wurtz’s speech with a detailed analysis of enlargement, Erik Meijer told colleagues that, “The debate on enlargement began in the 1990s as a right-wing initiative, its aim being the final destruction of old-style socialism. Left forces in the west opposed enlargement, but later came to accept it. We have now had two years experience of this latest enlargement and I share Francis Wurtz’s conclusions. At the same time the idea of further enlargement to incorporate a number of Balkan countries and Turkey or even former Soviet states such as Moldavia is also becoming ever less popular in the Netherlands, where people increasingly see disadvantages in growing competition between different social models. After the referendum in the Netherlands we can see that those who were in favour of the proposal have adopted the arguments of the opposition when it comes to enlargement, and are becoming increasingly critical. In addition there is considerable anxiety over cheap labour from the new member states. This has become a major political theme in the Netherlands. We are not against an open labour market, but can accept it only under conditions of equal pay for equal work. As long as this is not guaranteed we want to see limitations on total freedom of movement. As things stand the Dutch government is to maintain some limits until the end of the year.”

A Speaker from the Czech Republic outlined the reasons for growing disillusionment among the population, though guests from applicant countries Romania and Bulgaria, though not uncritical, expressed no doubts about the desirability of membership. Small farmers and small and medium-sized firms would be unable to survive, and adjustment would be hard. Membership would, however, enable their countries to play a full role in European and international affairs, and this aspect was to be welcomed, while the Romanian workforce, with a high level of education and relatively low wages, would be well-placed to take advantage of new opportunities.

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