European public prosecutor, European fire brigade – what next?

12 February 2019

European public prosecutor, European fire brigade – what next?

Criminals and natural disasters don't respect borders, so member states need to cooperate in order to catch villains and help each other in the event, for example, of forest fires and floods. That doesn't mean that we should hand over control, leaving criminal investigations and prosecutions, as well as the combating of disasters, to Brussels. The newly established European Public Prosecutor’s Office threatens to increase Brussels' meddling. And that goes now also for the establishment of a European fire service.

Previously the Netherlands voted in favour of a European Public Prosecutor, despite parliament having rejected the proposal. As fraud involving European money happens too often and isn't dealt with well in a number of member states, the argument was that a new EU agency was needed. Because of this, the Netherlands lost control of investigations and prosecutions. A more logical and much better solution to this would have been to withdraw those subsidies subject to fraud and recoup the losses. But in the mode of thinking of Brussels officials there is only ever one kind of solution to any problem: more Europe.

And now we're seeing the same thing happen in relation to dealing with natural disasters. Sometimes a forest fire, earthquake or flood may be so serious that a single country cannot, or cannot easily, deal with it immediately following the disaster. In this case it's the responsibility of other countries, especially those which border the afflicted state, to rush to their aid, as in practice happens now. Despite this a centralised European system is being prepared. Known as 'RescEU', it involves countries maintaining reserve capacity. At a cost to the EU taxpayer of more than €200 million, fire engines, hosepipes, rescue teams, field hospitals and emergency medical teams would be kept on standby somewhere in Europe in order to be able to intervene in the event of a major disaster. This sounds a reasonable idea until you consider that it can never lead to efficient deployment of resources. It would of course be much better for neighbouring countries to help each other. It is perhaps better to improve arrangements facilitating this, which would be an excellent idea. But how can a European fire brigade be the answer to disasters in the member states?

Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus was in the recent past extremely critical of the proposal, but changed his tune on the basis of a promise that countries will firstly have to do everything they can to increase their own capacity. This isn't convincing. In the first place, how confident can we be that certain member states won't become a little complacent if they know they can also call on the EU's flying firefighters and aid workers. Principally however, no shred of evidence has been produced that this can be dealt with better at European level.

In the view of the SP, the Netherlands should not be voting for this. It has very little to do with solidarity, but a great deal with European interference and waste.

Michiel van Nispen is an MP for the Dutch socialist party


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