News / 24 April 2014

Heated discussions during European election debate in Amsterdam

During the election debate between ten candidate MEPs (Members of European Parliament) yesterday evening in the Brakke Grond in Amsterdam, several issues are highlighted. Candidates explain how their parties think about the use of biofuels, mandatory production criteria for clothing sold in the EU and on the approach to tax avoidance. All participants acknowledge that there are problems related to these issues, but they differ on their preferred solutions to these problems. Tempers start to run high when the free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU (TTIP) is discussed.

Golden ticket

For some, this free trade agreement is a blatant violation of self-determination and democratic values, for others it is the golden ticket to growth and prosperity. "The whole treaty might not even become a reality!", Dirk Gotink (CDA) argues at one point. Tempers run high as Bas Eickhout (GreenLeft) puts his colleagues on the spot by asking them to take a position on the controversial Investor State Settlement Dispute (ISDS) clause in TTIP. This clause gives companies the exclusive right to sue states if new policies threaten to reduce their profit margins.


Investments always beneficial?

GreenLeft, the Socialist Party (SP), the Animal Party, the Labour Party and the Pirate Party are against the inclusion of the ISDS clause in TTIP. The Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) wants to examine whether the clause is necessary and the Christian Democratic candidate cannot be tempted to take a position tonight. Maarten Smit (VVD) stresses the economic growth that TTIP creates according to some calculations and Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (the liberal D66) announces confidently that "Investments are good!" An axiom that is strongly contested by the audience: "There are good investments, but certainly bad ones as well", claims a gentleman in the audience.


Undemocratic and opaque

Critical questions are raised about the way TTIP is negotiated. The European Parliament can only vote for or against the treaty when the end result is presented and is not allowed to make amendments. Erik Wesselius (SP) also points to the disproportionate influence of corporate lobbyists on the negotiations.


Short and sweet

At the end of the debate, moderator Sandra Rotterberg sums up the common feeling of the evening: we have heard a lot, learned a lot and we now have an idea of the positions of the various parties on issues that we feel strongly about. However, the debate is not over yet!


Fix Europe

The debate in the Brakke Grond was organised by the Fair Green & Global Alliance (consisting of ActionAid, Both Ends, Clean Clothes Campaign, Friends, SOMO & TNI) in order to move beyond the for-or-against Europe discussion and engage in a serious debate about real issues. As Matthijs Pontier (Pirate Party) puts it: "We are not for or against Europe: we want to fix Europe."

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