Historic debate on the ‘State of the Union'
Historic debate on the ‘State of the Union'
The debate on the European Union held yearly in the Dutch parliament took place yesterday, the very day that the Treaty of Lisbon came into force. According to SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel, this made the day "historic, but not very cheerful. To this treaty will always be attached the knowledge that it has arrived without the support of the Dutch people.” Van Bommel was referring to the blocking of a referendum on the treaty by the governing coalition.
In his contribution to the debate, Van Bommel emphasised that not only does Europe find itself in the midst of economic crisis, but also a crisis of credibility and support. In such times of crisis, the EU continues on its wasteful course. "A good four billion euros (of the EU budget) should, according to the European Court of Auditors, not have been paid out, such as subsidies for the yacht belonging to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Porsche, ” said Van Bommel. He went on to ask the government to block the European proposal for a tax on text messages, a proposal which emerged in a recently leaked European Commission document. “This sort of proposal won't increase support for the EU," Van Bommel added.
In conclusion he urged the government to exercise restraint and caution at the present time in relation to any further enlargement of the EU now that the financial crisis was encouraging countries to speed up their applications for accession. "Panic is a poor counsellor," said Van Bommel, pointing to the shrinking support for EU membership amongst the population of Iceland. .
Premier Balkenende's 'poverty of ideas' about Europe
Each party is allowed to invite one of its Members of the European Parliament to participate in the Dutch national parliament's annual debate. SP European parliamentary group leader Dennis de Jong called the government to account regarding the absence of any attempt by European leaders to tackle the fundamental flaws in the existing economic system. "For years Europe's slogan has been ‘big is beautiful’," said De Jong. "The bigger a bank or a corporation, the better. The SP wants an economy built on the human scale, which puts workers and consumers first, and not managers and bankers. A society in which social rights and decent working conditions are not being run down, but strengthened.”
During the debate the SP brought forward a number of proposals aimed at making the economy on the European level more socially progressive and more humane. First and foremost came a proposal to increase the influence of workers in firms which come under the EU's company law. “The Netherlands enjoys a unique tradition of joint control within firms, and of social consultation in general. Why does this government not take the initiative to transfer these typical Dutch achievements to the European level?"
In addition, the SP wants to see European competition law strengthened in order to counter the process of expansion of companies through merger and takeovers currently boosted by EU policies.
“Daily we hear news of new takeovers through which ever more Dutch firms come under foreign ownership," said De Jong. "The number of companies competing on the European market thus grows ever smaller, and small and medium-sized businesses are driven out, while this development also means that management is removed ever further from the shop floor. This is a sorry business."
In conclusion the SP Euro-MP drew attention to the almost exclusive access to the European Commission's expert committees which major corporations enjoy, committees charged with advising the Commission. De Jong further urged the government as soon as possible to ensure the protection of social rights which are under pressure from the free market now that the Lisbon Treaty has come into force.
De Jong's proposals did not lead to concrete action from the government. On the influence of workers within European companies, the cabinet made no clear response. Nor did the government representatives say anything about sharpening anti-trust legislation, or the proposal to establish rules on social progress for workers. De Jong's conclusion, however, was clear. "When it comes to the protection of social rights in Europe, I can detect no ambition in this government."