Six questions to Dennis de Jong on new SP campaign: ‘The talons of Europe’

13 April 2011

Six questions to Dennis de Jong on new SP campaign: ‘The talons of Europe’

The big corporations and the right-wing parties have done it again: the European institutions and heads of government are falling over each other to present proposals to lower wages, demolish pensions, and reduce spending on health care and social provision. Even the continued existence of the Netherlands’ system of negotiated collective labour agreements (CAOs) and of the trade union movement itself are under threat. SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong has launched the campaign ‘The talons of Europe’ in response.

Dennis de JongWhat are the EU plans that you are so keen to thwart?

Brussels is trying in a devious manner to get a hold on things we can simply better organise ourselves: our wages, for example, or the retirement age. It’s said that Europe must become ‘more competitive’. At the expense of ordinary people, sure. The heads of government think that we can better compete with countries like China and India if we force down wages and allow working conditions to deteriorate. We say: no Chinese conditions here. Invest in good education and technological renewal, in innovation. We want, whatever else, to see work pay. No working poor here.

According to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, none of the authority currently vested in our parliament will be transferred to the European Union. Is that correct?

No, Rutte’s lying. To give an example: EU Finance Ministers have only just agreed what Europe is going to have control of. They have created a ‘scoreboard’ for this. Wages and pensions come to the fore again here, but also for example house prices. In the future the European Commission is going to give countries a report grade, and if for instance they find that wages are going up by too much, they will be making compulsory ‘recommendations’. If a member state fails to follow these ‘recommendations’, it will incur fines running into billions. There is therefore most certainly a transfer of control, because in the future our parliament will no longer have the last word in relation to these matters.

In what policy areas do you think it right for the EU to intervene?

Not everything that Europe does is bad and the SP wants to see the EU take up certain things which it now ignores. For instance the EU must at last agree a minimum level of tax on profits. This would prevent countries imposing ever lower taxes with the aim of attracting as many corporations as possible. But Europe is quick enough when it comes to measures which are in the interests of the major corporations and stands more-or-less still if it’s ordinary people whose interests are involved. Europe doesn’t tackle the speculators but instead ordinary working men and women. Bonuses aren’t limited, but wages are.

You talk about Europe’s ‘talons’.

The EU will soon be able to undo agreements between trade unions and employers, if in Brussels’ view wages would rise too quickly. For trade union rights and for just provision for people’s retirement years we in the Netherlands had to fight a long, hard struggle. All of these things which over a century of struggle were fought for are now hanging in the balance. Because of Brussels. I am very worried about the growing power of neoliberal Europe. The SP is not against measures which improve the position of workers, that’s why we want to see a European minimum wage, which would be based on the overall prosperity of each country.

According to you the EU is too neoliberal, too directed towards the interests of big corporations and too little concerned for those of ordinary people. What, in your view, should European cooperation look like?

We’ve got to get rid of the enormous influence of corporate lobbyists in Brussels. We want to oblige lobbyists to register and to know what influence they have had on legislative proposals and parliamentary reports when these are presented. In order to reduce the influence of the financial sector, I am working together with other Euro-MPs to establish a new organisation, Finance Watch, which by conducting its own investigations will be able to counter the often misleading information provided by major financial institutions. European cooperation must be aimed at matters which we cannot address at the national level alone and legislative proposals must be in the interests of ordinary men and women and not dictated by big corporations.

What are you going to do next?

I’ve noticed that most people have absolutely no idea of what’s in store for them. In general people don’t know how Brussels is increasing its power at the expense of ordinary people’s interests. In the immediate future we will be informing people who visit this site, and in meticulous detail, about these plans and what actions we intend to launch against them.

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