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Roemer: 'Not for multinationals, but for each other'

1 November 2017

Roemer: 'Not for multinationals, but for each other'

SP leader Emile Roemer addressed Parliament today, giving a detailed critique of the new government’s policies and continuing to outline those of the SP and the left opposition. Naturally enough most of this critique concerned domestic policies, but Roemer also touched upon a number of matters with an international dimension.

Below is a summary and translation of the sections likely to be of most interest to foreign readers.

Climate

“On the climate we find much to approve in the coalition agreement. It’s worthy of a compliment that this government intends to work in a serious fashion on meeting the Paris climate targets. Real efforts are to be made to reduce CO2 emissions, although the plans are still extremely vague. And the Environment Planning Bureau has shown that current policies are insufficient to achieve the projected reductions. What is the Prime Minister’s reaction to this critique? How are we going to achieve the targets?

“Carbon capture and storage have never been done successfully in the Netherlands, yet this is expected to deliver half of the targeted reduction. Real climate policy is not about burying the waste under the ground, but about cleaner production. Also, the costs are shared unequally, because the biggest polluters don’t pay the most. When it comes to tackling pollution the bulk of the bill will go to domestic consumers. Poorer families could have trouble paying their energy bills.”

Referring to gas drilling in the Groningen region, which has been the subject of much protest, Roemer noted that people living there “had counted on a reduction in gas drilling, yet once again they have been left in the lurch”, with the projected drilling following the line of the previous government. Did the PM think this was any way to regain the trust of Groningen people?

Refugees and other migrants

“Genuine refugees, who want to integrate and to work here, have seen things made ever more difficult. Children who have lived here for years and have built their lives here, can’t count on an amnesty.” There is no special amnesty for such children in the coalition agreement, Roemer noted. He gave a list of children who were born in the Netherlands or knew no other country. “Nemr, Sani, Leon, Aida, Sherena,” were some of such children, and “they have, alas, seen their interests traded away” in the coalition agreement.

European Union

“This government has come forward with no plans whatsoever to restrain the financial sector in the EU, responsible as it was for the genesis of the eurocrisis. Worse still, they have given a lot of space for banks to lower their buffer requirements. More dubious products, no transaction tax, no separation of commercial banks from high street banks.

“This House has also given a clear statement about the European Public Prosector’s Office, to the effect that we don’t wish to participate. It appears that the government has ignored this statement. The premier declares in his own country that he doesn’t want to see a European superstate, but in Brussels he hands over ever more power.”

Weapons, Wars and Development

“On 10th December the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons will be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. I would like to congratulate them. Forty years ago saw the start of the campaign ‘Nuclear weapons out of the world, beginning in the Netherlands’. At that time our armed forces had six ‘atomic tasks’. Now another has been added. Everyone knows that at Volkel airbase the nuclear bombs for the F16s are housed. This summer the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was signed. To date, the Netherlands has not been willing to sign. I call on the premier to do so as soon as possible. Is he prepared to do so?” Otherwise, Roemer said, he would consider bringing a resolution before Parliament.

“Since the accession of President Trump”, Roemer continued, “tensions in the world have only heightened. The (Dutch) government wants to prolong a number of military missions, in Mali, in Iraq and Syria and in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan the US is asking us to participate in a mission with no clear final goal. In Iraq and Syria, where ISIS has largely been driven back, the situation has become exceptionally unclear. A solution is further away than ever. For sixteen years there’s been a war waged against terrorism. But what have been the results? More terrorist acts than before 2001, more (violent) radical organisations, more refugees, more victims.

“In Parliament we had a debate in which it emerged that the importance of safe munitions and good medical provision had been underestimated in the runup to the mission in Mali. Isn’t it time that the Netherlands called a halt to these missions?

“I’m really pleased that we will be spending more money in order to aid countries elsewhere in the world with their development, certainly following the deep cuts made by the last government. I’m also pleased that more is to be invested in reception facilities for refugees in the region (of the affected countries). From my own experience I know that this is badly needed. But as well as aid we should be tackling the causes of poverty. Countries cannot develop when multinationals pay no taxes to them. Such tax avoidance is effected far too often via our country. What is this government really going to do to help these countries in their fight against poverty?” Or “to prevent people having to flee?”

Democratic Rights

Liberals like Prime Minister Mark Rutte had fought in the past for our democracy, and it was a liberal, Johan Rudolph Thorbecke, who introduced direct elections, while in 1917 another, Cort van der Linden, brought in universal manhood suffrage. However, Roemer said, “Rutte wants to go down in history as the liberal premier who abolished a democratic right.” This was “under the watchful eye of Mr Pechtold” the leader of centrist liberals D66, “the party which once took the initiative itself for a real, binding referendum, yet who, after the Ukraine referendum, no longer dared to defend this.

“How can people have trust in politicians who themselves mistrust the people?” Roemer’s view was that the Netherlands now seemed to be a country where “the people can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but politicians will always force through their own will. “ He hoped that in the coming referendum on the ‘Sleepwet’ – a law designed to counter terrorism but which will impinge on civil rights, while being ineffective - people would also say ‘no’ to this “administrative arrogance”.

Netherlands, Tax Haven

“It’s clear that major corporations can make massive profits, but that on these profits less tax has to be paid…. 164 billion in profit in 2009, 196 billion in profit now, but in the meantime their contribution to the Netherlands’ tax coffers has fallen by 2%.

“The Netherlands has begun a tax war. Our country was already a tax haven, now we are going, via the lowering of the tax on profits for major corporations and the abolition of taxes on dividends, to organise a race to the bottom in Europe, a tax war, and I want to ask the Prime Minister to put a stop to it.

“According to the European Commission no other country in the EU offers so many opportunities to multinationals to avoid tax. I’m asking the premier: who are your friends? Who considered that the tax on dividends had to be abolished? Who thought that the tax on profits on big firms must be further reduced. Was it (the employers’ organisation) VNO-NCW? I’m really curious about the dynamic.”

Roemer said that the Netherlands could be better governed, and mentioned that, along with the leaders of the Labour Party and the Green Left, he had proposed a number of alternatives. In these, people come before multinationals: “if we don’t allow multinationals to pay even less tax, people won’t have to spend more on their groceries. We put teachers, nurses, police officers and soldiers above investors and banks. More for people who work, instead of less tax for foreign shareholders.”

“This is no alternative agreement,” Roemer concluded, “but a guide, a proposal as to how we can better spend the billions than the government proposes. A helping hand for a government with a wafer-thin majority. So I’m also counting on the well-meaning attitude of the coalition. Because a great deal must still be amended and improved if this government wants to become a gpvernment for ordinary people.”

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