A Better Europe Starts Now

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by Harry van Bommel and Niels de Heij


European cooperation has already brought us many benefits, for example in the areas of human rights and of our prosperity. That does not mean that it is always good or that cooperation in all areas offers added value. The outcome of the referendum on the European Constitution demonstrated that a clear majority holds the European Union as it is now in little esteem, and that there was a need for a broad social discussion over Europe and the role of the Netherlands within it. This paper is intended to contribute to such a debate by making proposals for a more democratic, slimmed down, balanced and affordable EU, as well as a fruitful European agricultural policy.

Proposals for a more democratic Europe:

  • strengthen the role of national parliaments and governments and of the European Parliament (EP)
  • limit the role of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Court of Justice (ECJ)
  • introduce the proposed 'yellow-card procedure', under which, where a minimum of a third of national parliaments consider that a proposed EU measure comes under national competence, the Commission must reconsider the proposal
  • limit the scope of the economic market
  • make the Council more transparent
  • improve relations between national parliaments and the European Parliament
  • increase public involvement
  • changes to the Treaty should be put to referendum

Proposals for a slimmed down Europe:

  • subject legislation to tests of competence, subsidiarity and proportionality
  • clearly demarcate competences and return them to national institutions
  • develop a Europe based on core competences
  • improve and limit the scope of the internal market
  • improve European environmental, asylum, energy and terrorism policies
  • ensure that we have fewer but more effective rules
  • work towards a 'social' Europe
  • no centralised European foreign policy

Proposals for a more balanced European Union

  • extend the accession criteria
  • hold referenda over future enlargements
  • give more financial support to poor member states
  • regulate the free movement of workers
  • for the time being, no enlargement in the Balkans

Proposals for an affordable EU:

  • limit the EU budget
  • suspend the Dutch contribution to the budget by refusing to approve the annual accounts
  • apply the Stability Pact fairly
  • reform the structural funds
  • the EP must have a single seat in which it holds all meetings

Proposals for a fruitful agricultural policy

  • shift agricultural subsidies to farmers and to environmentally beneficial services
  • ensure better environmental, food safety and animal welfare legislation
  • discourage overproduction
  • abolish export subsidies
  • give developing countries preferential market access
  • extend the Anything-but-Arms rule
  • remove agricultural production from the WTO
  • cofinancing for agricultural policy
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