Marijnissen: “There's nothing wrong with globalisation”

16 March 2008

Marijnissen: “There's nothing wrong with globalisation”

Jan Marijnissen sees little to celebrate in the way in which the EU is waging war against globalisation. “Globalisation, there's nothing wrong with it. It can give underdeveloped countries the chance to develop further. The problem is more to do with how the EU, the US and institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are managing globalisation”, says SP leader Jan Marijnissen.

‘Globalisation as opportunity' is the slogan of the European Union for the coming year. The European Commission, the Union's executive, wants to tackle problems such as climate change, the threat of energy shortages and unmanageable influxes of immigrants into Europe in this year's work programme. Reforms to Europe's economies must, moreover, be made effective in the face of growing competition from the Far East. “Globalisation is a fact," says the SP leader, "there's no point in resisting it."

Marijnissen sees little to celebrate in the way in which the EU is waging war against globalisation. He doesn't see danger about which the European Commission is so anxious. He is pleased by the economic success of a country like China, that it is at last experiencing rising prosperity. The economic danger to Europe he sees as greatly exaggerated. "We're well placed to adapt," he says.

The EU argues for free trade. What's wrong with that?

“Unbridled free trade, yes. Unilever wants to close three factories in the Netherlands because they make too little, you understand, too little profit. The power of international business has now become greater than that of national governments. This is being encouraged by the EU's Lisbon agenda of economic reforms. In my view these aren't aimed at maintaining what people have achieved, but at giving major corporations more power. You can also see this in the desire of (Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein) Donner to liberalise the right of protection against dismissal.”

The EU sees a flexible labour market as necessary in order to cope with competition from China and India.

“You don't have to sacrifice the rights of workers. We must continue to invest in high-quality technology. We are living now in a boom time, but a recession will always follow such. We won't survive this very well if people are only working in the services sector. Because services can also disappear abroad. Look at all the call centres which are being set up in India.”

How can we preserve employment in the Netherlands?

“We are going to be looking into this, consulting numerous experts – how can we preserve manufacturing industry in the Netherlands? Workers must have more say in the management of firms. And firms which come and set up in the Netherlands must be obliged to remain a minimum number of years in the Netherlands, a sort of a guarantee demanded that they won't leave for low wage countries after remaining a few years, so that we can be certain that the employment is guaranteed for a certain period. I was in Harlingen at a firm that builds ships, which are then fitted out in Asia. We need to acquire that sort of specialisation and soon."

That's exactly what the EU is resisting.

“It's good that the EU is investing in this, but I'd rather that the Netherlands did it itself. We don't need Europe for that. We have to get away from thinking in power-blocs, the idea of the EU against the US and Asia. The feeling of solidarity and sympathy is national and won't quickly become European. That's why I believe that the new Reform Treaty goes much too far, because once again national vetoes are being sacrificed.”

In the areas of energy policy and climate change the Netherlands can't easily operate on its own.

“That's right, it seems to me sensible in Europe to work together in relation to Russia and the oil-exporting countries. We can together build energy stocks and look for alternatives to fossil fuels. You can't solve climate change alone.”

On the other hand you're completely against a common European policy on migration.

“You can't all the same fetch twenty million people from Africa, because we have a shortage of manpower here. I'd describe that as a form of modern slavery. In any case shortages on the labour market will decline after 2040. Until then we have, in Europe, to solve the bottlenecks through, amongst other things, innovation. We have of course learnt something from the problems with Turks and Moroccans. In Poland whole communities are going down the drain as a result of migration to the west. And Poland is at the same time bringing workers from the Ukraine."

This article first appeared in the Dutch daily newspapers NRC-Next and NRC Handelsblad on 24 January 2008.

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