European Commission attempts to control the Netherlands must stop

26 February 2017

European Commission attempts to control the Netherlands must stop

This week the European Commission published its national reports, including one on the Netherlands. This is done in the framework of ‘economic governance’, and they’ve got an opinion about everything: the housing market, spending on health care, the labour market, and public investments. Not everything they write is nonsense, but it’s striking how this year’s recommendations are at odds with the policies previously propagated by the Commission. It demonstrates once again that the European Commission is incapable of running member states. Better to leave that task to national governments and parliaments.

A few examples of contradictory policies. For years, throughout the financial crisis, the Commission has advocated austerity. It was Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his deputy Lodewijk Asscher indeed who promised to follow these recommendations to the letter, resulting in an enormous drop in economic growth and loss of jobs. The SP has said repeatedly that such draconian spending cuts are irresponsible. The Commission now concedes that we’re right. They are concerned about the lack of public investments, particularly with regard to education.

The term ‘flexicurity’ was invented by the European Commission. Forget permanent jobs. Everyone would be better off if we all jump from temporary job to temporary job. This same Commission is now concerned about the quality of workplaces in the Netherlands. Too many flexible contracts, too little permanent employment. Meanwhile, the SP holds to its course: we simply want decent jobs, which means steady, permanent jobs.

Where the Commission does stick to its guns is when it comes to pensions, repeating their criticisms of occupational pensions. In addition to building their state ‘AOW’ pension, employees are now obliged to have a pension with their employer or with the sector in which they work. The Commission wants to see the back of this. In their view the whole thing is destabilizing and unfair to young people. Pensions must become a market product. Everyone will have to take care of his or her own pension via an individual insurance. No solidarity, just thoroughgoing individualism. It’s clear that the insurance company lobby has been at work.

There are many more examples which could be given but the message would be just the same: the Commission is zigzagging about and the results will be a great deal of misery. It’s time to get rid of economic governance and trust once against our national parliaments. This would not ensure success, certainly not while there’s a right-wing majority, but MPs would do well to consider their positions as they face the Dutch electorate on March 15th.

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