The House of Representatives sinks its teeth in the Fyra drama. The parliamentary inquiry is the only hard power which the Dutch parliament has left. Too little, too late. Europe has already eroded the power over budget law and parliamentary control in other policy areas is also waning. The only thing that remains to the House is the 'right to information'.
MPs are propelled by a 'fads', reinforced by limited collective experience. In 1990 the average number of years of experience was more than 8 years. Now it is approximately 3.5 years. Some subjects cause excitement, like the weed pass or the smoking ban. Even the senators interfere with the details, as was the case, for example, with the registration of prostitutes. Senator Ester of the Christian Union opposed the 'waterbed effect', the movement of prostitutes to municipalities with the most favourable licensing. Loose morals are attracted by loose regulations.
The commotion surrounding the 'waterbed effect' stands in stark contrast to the adoption of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which requires the Netherlands to support rescue operations of weak brethren in the Eurozone for tens of billions of euros. Dutch parliament approved a treaty that was changed the next day by European leaders. Not only countries, but also weak banks should be saved. Thus, the Netherlands ratified an old text. No one spoke up. The Fyra is small-fry (maximum damage 1 billion) compared with the zombie banks in Spain and Cyprus.
To succeed, a currency union needs to be a budget union. Budgets of the euro club members must maintain the same direction: lower deficits and less debt. That is quite difficult because every comma in the budget has its own constituency. And they cry out loudly when their comma is touched. The EU therefore centralized fiscal surveillance. Governments must first submit their budget to the European Commission who then grades it. As a result, the control of the House on the budget has gradually evaporated. In its initial proposals, the Commission praised national parliaments in all languages. In the legislative process, erosion followed. In the end, the Commission promises 'to take into account' national parliaments 'as much as possible'. If the House wants to know more, it has to file a 'request'. Commissioners for euro affairs, the stoic Finn Olli Rehn, will then show up to explain it. Budget control has been reduced to 'information on request'.
Now the Commission wants to centralize the whole economic policy: major policy plans are first submitted to Brussels. Whether it is pensions, labour, wage, social security, health or housing system: the plans go to Brussels first. The Commission will consider the plan, tweak it and attach a 'contract' with the Member State concerned that a 'reward' is handed out when the plan is implemented as desired. The reward is obviously necessary because non-compliance with agreements has become the norm. The money for the reward must come from a special fund for which Member States have to pay. Where does this leave the House of Representatives? Nowhere. In the eyes of Brussels, the House of Representatives is in fact a sort of provincial assembly.
László Andor, European Commissioner for Social Affairs already suggested a policy adjustment for Germany. 'Wages in Germany have to go up", he said on April 29 in Der Spiegel. According to him, the Germans are too competitive and other countries cannot keep up with them. Therefore wages have to go up so Germans can spend more and buy products from southern Europe. "Countries with large export volumes have to adapt," said Andor. This is hazardous talk for the Netherlands. Dutch exports are about the same size as those of the French. In the logic of Andor, that is, of course, a huge disparity. The Netherlands would need to export less and raise wages so that more Renaults are purchased from France. Brussels is building a system of central planning: the Commission acts as the State Planning Bureau and the Commissioners are the Brezhnevs of Brussels. Oddly enough, the biggest supporter of the European central planning is the liberal leader in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, who also happens to be a figurehead in the General Civil Pension Fund (ABP). And behold, there is also a European imbalance there: relatively, the Netherlands has the largest pension funds in the world. Most other countries have nothing. Not fair! Those pension funds are therefore, like savings, a wonderful money reservoir for saving French and Spanish banks within a European Banking Union.
Who stands up for the retired Dutch? Not the MPs. They too just hear about it in the newspaper.