The National Parliamentary Elections and Europe

13 June 2010

The National Parliamentary Elections and Europe

Europe was hardly discussed during the campaign for the elections to the Netherlands' national parliament. During a debate on the state television channel NOS, SP leader Emile Roemer laid out his plans for how the EU could be made a more 'social Europe'. Other parties, particularly the right-wing VVD and the far right PVV, limited themselves to the issue of reducing the contribution to Brussels through spending cuts. But beyond that we heard very little about Europe, which is a pity, because in relation to every subject which was debated, and above all the cuts, Europe played a role in the background and will, perhaps, soon be playing an important role in the foreground.

Dennis de JongDennis de Jong, Chair of the SP group in the European Parliament

The new government will be obliged, for example, to write a national implementation plan describing the way in which the Netherlands will assist in realising the ambitions of Europa 2020, the successor to the Lisbon agenda which was to have made Europe the most competitive region in the world by 2010, but which failed miserably. The European Council will be discussing this next week as part of their consideration of the whole body of Commission proposals to improve European monitoring of national budgets.

The voter has thus in the last few weeks been misled, the impression having been created that the Dutch national parliament would decide for itself about the new national budget. In practice this could work out entirely differently, because if the European Council decides to impose a tight limit on government spending based on the Growth and Stability Pact, this will mean that it won't be the Dutch parliament, but the European Council which will be the final arbiter of how much spending must be cut. This is one of the fundamental choices before them at the present time.

Nevertheless, Dutch politicians act as if the Netherlands can determine for itself what cuts will be made in the years to come. As I see it, it's one thing or the other: either parties decide beforehand that the European Union will have no say over Dutch plans to cut spending, or they make it clear during the election campaign just where the line is drawn, and that they are happy to hand over part of their power to Brussels.

Emile Roemer made it clear that he would not accept any limits which were designed solely to cut spending, that he wanted a social Europe. Parties who did indeed want to place the Netherlands under the guardianship of the European Commission and the European Council, should have been equally honest.

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