Do national payment systems get another chance?

Business Weekly.

The EU’s antitrust chief Neelie Kroes warned banks on Monday that a new payment system should not be allowed to cut down choice or increase costs for customers.


Kroes suggested that national card payment schemes should be encouraged to join the SEPA scheme because that would introduce and increase competition to the benefit of merchants and customers.

The EU competition commissioner said she was working hard to wrap up an ongoing antitrust case against MasterCard Inc. The European Commission last year charged the credit card provider with illegal price fixing for setting the fees retailers must pay for accepting MasterCard and Maestro branded cards, saying this limits competition between banks who use the xservice.

“We want this decision to provide the industry with a solid competition analysis of the MIF as applied by MasterCard,” she said.

Kroes earlier signaled that Visa may also face further trouble ahead. In 2002 it won a temporary exemption from EU antitrust rules that allowed it to strike deals on interchange fees with banks that it might usually compete with.

This exemption expires at the end of the year and Kroes said in October that she was unlikely to simply extend it, warning that she had “the feeling that something should be done.”

Regulators have criticized the high level of these fees, saying card networks like Visa, MasterCard and American Express have failed to explain why they need to charge so much for handling payments.

This could mean that national systems could get another chance. Good!

Dutch Identity

The WRR (Scientific Council for Government Policy) recently presented the result of a study about the Dutch Identity. The report, entitled “Identification with the Netherlands”, was presented to the public by princess Maxima, the wife of the Dutch crown prince. Central point in her speech was the conclusion that “the typical Dutch identity” does not exist and cannot be captured in one dimensional characterizations.
Unfortunately, the report also made a connection between Dutch Identity and having more than one passport, something which I think is not related.

What is an Identity? Is it the common habits of a group of people, the language, the food they eat, the history they share, their religion? Yes and No. Identity is something you feel part off or you feel related to.
Just make the suggestion to a Dutchman that the Netherlands should be disbanded and made a province of Germany. Then you will see what the Dutch identity is.

Old man at the top

Jan Pronk is going for the leadership of the PvdA.
Some time ago the complete management of the political party PvdA resigned. This was as a result of the assessment of the loss at the elections of 2007.
Now some ‘young’ members of the PvdA have asked Jan Pronk to go for the leadership of the party. They even have opened a website where people can support the candidateship.

Question: will this bring the voters back from the SP?

Answer: No, it will scare away a lot of voters. Pronk can be described as being a difficult person, a polititian not a leader of a political party, somebody with it own agenda.

Europe: New Treaty

From the website Open Europe:
“The analysis finds that only 10 out of 250 proposals in the new treaty are different from the proposals in the original EU Constitution. In other words, 96% of the text is the same as the rejected Constitution.” [link]

From the Former President of Germany Roman Herzog about the European Union and the constitution:
“People have an ever increasing feeling that something is going wrong; that an
untransparent, complex, mammoth institution has evolved: divorced from practical
problems and national traditions; grabbing ever greater competences and areas of
power; that the democratic control mechanisms are failing – in brief, that it cannot go
on like this.”
(Die Welt, March 2007)

Growing pain for the SP

From an article in the NRC newspaper, section Hollands Dagboek.

Elma Verhey describes what happened in her week and writes that at the last day of the week she is finally called by one of the top-brass of the SP (probably somebody in the house of commons). They have a conversation and I thought one line was very striking.

How can you live with the party culture (within the SP). By keeping your head down at the right moment and gamble at the brittle health of Jan Marijnissen“.

Growing pain for the SP

It seams that the political party SP is having problems keeping all members together. A recent conflict about the election of a member to the ‘eerste kamer’ (house of lords) has escalated into the suspension of the editor of the party newspaper. The editor had written a critical piece about the election procedures in the SP. Party officials did not like the piece and asked her to retread it. Main argument was that the article was to one-sided.

For Dutch readers, the article can be found here [link].

Diesel particle filter not allowed

The European court has ruled that the Netherlands is not allowed to make diesel particle filters compulsory on new cars. Instead the Netherlands has to wait till the end of 2008. Making the filter compulsory in the Netherlands would be unfair the the manufacturers because they would have to make changes to the product only for the Dutch market.
The Dutch government wanted to make the filters compulsory earlier because of the problems the Netherlands have with the European rule on clean air. Despite the ruling, 60% of the cars sold in the Netherlands which are equipped with diesel engines are also equipped with a particle filter.

One example of how the market can react quicker than the European politicians and how Europe should not interfere with the activities in the individual countries.

Prof. Mr. Laurens Jan Brinkhorst

We have an ex-member of the Dutch government who is regularly showing us how thick the plank is in front of his head. When we held the referendum in the Netherlands he was the one who made remarks like; if we don’t say yes war will break out in Europe, all the light will go out and we will fall in complete chaos. You cannot blame the guy because he use to work in the European parliament from 1994 to 1999. He must have lost it then working in a parliament with no power, doing nothing all day.

Now that the negotiations the new constitution are started he felt it necessary to write an article in our regional newspaper, the Eindhovens Dagblad, about the necessity of the European Union. What is striking in the piece is his lack of understanding how he, as a Dutch representative in Brussels, failed to tell his party and more important, failed to tell the Dutch people how important the EU for us is and how important their work is. No, instead he can only say ‘WAR WILL BREAK OUT IF YOU SAY NO’. Furthermore he keeps repeating that we do not understand the issue, that it was never the intention to build a European superstate, and that the flag, the Nation Anthem and the European President had nothing to with. Yes sure!!

One argument he uses, the rising of new economic superpowers like China and India and the fact that the European economy would benefit from more cooperation, is one which I can agree with. We need to cooperate better, made it easier to transport our goods and services but we also need to keep our National identities, our habits, and our approach to life and work. Diversity is one of the strengths of the European countries and economies, that is what made to Germans so efficient, that’s what made the Italians so creative, that what made the Dutch a bit of it all. That is lacking in economies like that of the US. That is all blend and tasteless.

So Mister Brinkhorst, I will vote Yes if:

  • We get a small and simple treaty which provides simple and clear guidelines how the voting power is being divided,
  • More power is given back to the National parliaments,
  • The European parliament has the power to send the European Commissioners home,
  • I have the feeling that the European parliament is representing me and my country and is not squeezing us like an orange.

Scary person that President Hugo Chavez

A strange and scary person that President Hugo Chavez! In the resent past he nationalized oil companies, he wants to do the same with banks and now he wants to silence the opposition by taking away the ‘indipendent’ TV stations.
I known he is big buddies with Fidel but that doesn’t mean you have to take over his bad habbits.


Sarkozy and the simplified European constitution

Sarkozy went to the European parliament. And it was funny to see how the reactions were on his suggestion for a simplified version of the European constitution. An earlier suggestion by the Dutch was received with a lot skepticism.

I think a simplified version is not going far enough. I think the whole European institute should be scaled down and more of the issues handled in the European parliament should be handled by the local parliaments of the countries.


By the way, France and the Netherlands rejected the constitution. But also by the UK, who cancelled their referendum. The Czech republic, Denmark, Poland and Portugal either cancelled or postponed their decision.

Energy saving lamp nonsence?

A member of our Government suggested that the Netherlands should follow the example of Australia and ban the use of standard light bulb and instead only permit the use Energy saving lights. As a result a lot of, so called, experts began to fumigate. The energy conservation of this action would be neglectable and the energy saving lights would be bad for the environment because of the mercury inside of them. Furthermore you wouldn’t be able to use them because they wouldn’t fit in the armatures.

I think that is a load of nonsense. Most of the lights I use in my house are power saving light and yes, they don’t function well in situation where you switch them on and off a lot. But I have no problems putting them in any armature and why would you need an energy saving light in your toilet?