Netherlands

1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament Elections

Lim­it­ed role for EU-wide front run­ner and var­ied opin­ions on the future of Europe
In the Nether­lands, the Euro­pean elec­tions were held on Thurs­day, 22nd of May 2014. Com­pared to
the pre­vi­ous elec­tions in 2009, where ten polit­i­cal par­ties were involved, the num­ber of polit­i­cal parties
pro­vid­ing a list with poten­tial can­di­dates almost dou­bled to nine­teen, nine of which had not previously
been rep­re­sent­ed in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. This increase seems to coin­cide with a gen­er­al trend in
Dutch pol­i­tics, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of sin­gle-issue par­ties such as the Par­ty for the Ani­mals and 50Plus (de
Oud­eren partij).

Key Topic No. 1: The Future Process of European Integration

Dur­ing the elec­toral cam­paign sev­er­al top­ics were debat­ed. How­ev­er, one issue in par­tic­u­lar stood
out, that of the future role of the Euro­pean Union. The elec­toral debate cen­tred round this sub­ject and
all nine­teen elec­tion pro­grammes held dif­fer­ent views on how the EU should move forward.
Vehe­ment­ly advo­cat­ing that the Nether­lands should leave the EU were Geert Wilders’ Par­ty for
Free­dom (PVV) and Artikel50. These par­ties believe that it is not in the inter­est of the Nether­lands to
remain in the Euro­pean Union. Opposed to this idea of exit­ing the EU, the Democ­rats 66 (D66), who
are tra­di­tion­al­ly known for their pro-Europe stance, advo­cat­ed a pro-Europe view with fur­ther and
deep­er Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. Between these two polar oppo­site posi­tions, oth­er elec­tion programmes
expressed more nuanced views on the progress of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. For exam­ple, the Socialist
Par­ty (SP) cam­paigned with the slo­gan ‘Fed­er­al State NO, Col­lab­o­ra­tion YES’, while GreenLeft
advo­cat­ed that the EU should be more sus­tain­able, invest in green tech­nol­o­gy and that the EU should
focus on more sol­i­dar­i­ty. The Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (CDA) main­tained that the EU should be strong
when need­ed and that the EU’s econ­o­my should be fair, which could only be achieved by putting the
indi­vid­ual at the heart of the econ­o­my. The Lib­er­als (VVD) cam­paigned with the slo­gan ‘Europe where
need­ed’. The Lib­er­als hold the belief that the future of the Euro­pean econ­o­my should be giv­en top
priority.

Other Key Topics

Oth­er key top­ics dis­cussed were the econ­o­my (the need for bud­get con­trol and the need to create
jobs), the need for more democ­ra­cy and trans­paren­cy in the EU, upcom­ing threats and challenges
such as our ener­gy sup­ply, the pro­tec­tion of fun­da­men­tal rights and the treat­ment of refugees and
immi­grants in the EU. In addi­tion, spe­cif­ic sub­jects were raised by sin­gle-inter­est par­ties. For example,
the three pre­dom­i­nant issues of the polit­i­cal par­ty 50PLUS were (1) to hold an Advi­so­ry Ref­er­en­dum in
which cit­i­zens are con­sult­ed about the direc­tion the EU should take (2) for there to be no EU
inter­fer­ence with regard to pen­sions (3) rather than talk­ing about old­er peo­ple, it is nec­es­sary that the
Euro­pean Union should talk with old­er people.

EU-wide frontrunners and the role they played

A new char­ac­ter­is­tic of these Euro­pean elec­tions was the intro­duc­tion of the EU-wide fron­trun­ners, or
Spitzenkan­di­dat­en. The idea behind this was to raise aware­ness about the elec­tions and to
per­son­alise Euro­pean pol­i­tics. More­over, through the cre­ation of the Spitzenkan­di­dat­en, a direct link is
estab­lished between the Euro­pean elec­tions and the (forth­com­ing) posi­tion of Pres­i­dent of the
Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. Sec­ond­ly, the cre­ation of the Spitzenkan­di­dat­en aims to clar­i­fy the relationship
between nation­al pol­i­tics and Euro­pean pol­i­tics for the EU cit­i­zens. How­ev­er, the EU-wide frontrunners
played lit­tle or no role at all dur­ing the elec­toral cam­paign in the Nether­lands. There was one general
debate on the 28 April 2014 at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Maas­tricht, broad­cast by Euro-News, in which four
fron­trun­ners appeared. More­over, on a nation­al lev­el, only nation­al can­di­dates were giv­en exposure
on the polit­i­cal par­ties’ web­sites and pam­phlets. In addi­tion, it was only the nation­al can­di­dates who
were invit­ed to the country’s debate organ­ised by the Dutch broad­cast­er NOS on the eve of the
elec­tions. Giv­en the lack of atten­tion that the EU-wide fron­trun­ners received in the Dutch media, one
might even ques­tion whether Dutch cit­i­zens under­stood that they would not only vote for their
can­di­date for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, but also for the new Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Commission.

Links:

Euroscepticism fosters a push for EU reform

Being one of the found­ing coun­tries of the Euro­pean Union, the Nether­lands has long been a strong, if
some­what crit­i­cal, sup­port­er of the Euro­pean Union. How­ev­er, in the last few years the Dutch view on
the Euro­pean Union has altered as a result of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, unwant­ed EU reg­u­la­tion, the fear of
los­ing sov­er­eign­ty to a Euro­pean super-state and the neg­a­tive side effects of the free move­ment of
per­sons on the Dutch labour mar­ket. Con­se­quent­ly, the Nether­lands has become more euroscep­tic in
the last few years. With regard to the Euro­pean elec­tions, euroscep­ti­cism did play a role dur­ing the
elec­toral cam­paign and man­i­fest­ed itself in var­i­ous ways.

A clear exam­ple of euroscep­ti­cism was the involve­ment of Geert Wilder’s Par­ty for Free­dom (PVV)
and the polit­i­cal par­ty named Arti­cle 50. Both par­ties strong­ly advo­cat­ed that the Nether­lands should
leave the Euro­pean Union. Geert Wilders pushed the euroscep­tic agen­da even fur­ther by seek­ing a
Euro­pean alliance with oth­er euroscep­tic par­ties, even­tu­al­ly to form a euroscep­tic block in the
Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. Besides these two polit­i­cal par­ties, one could argue in gen­er­al that the debate
on the future of the Euro­pean Union itself is a clear exam­ple of euroscep­ti­cism. Cur­rent­ly, there is only
one polit­i­cal par­ty that is clear­ly pro-Europe, name­ly Democ­rats 66 (D66), while the oth­er par­ties seek
some sort of reform of the Euro­pean Union. Final­ly, the fact that media cov­er­age dur­ing the campaign
focused pri­mar­i­ly on europ­s­cep­ti­cism high­lights its relevance.

Links:

Low voter turnout suggests ambivalence towards EU

The total turnout of the Euro­pean elec­tion in the Nether­lands was 37%, com­par­a­tive­ly less than the
EU aver­age of 43.09%, a vari­a­tion of 6%. On the oth­er hand, when com­par­ing the turnout of 2014 to
the turnout of 36.8% in 2009, one must acknowl­edge that this aspect remains unchanged. This could
be con­sid­ered sur­pris­ing, since there was a deep con­cern that the bal­lot was going to be a fiasco.

Explaining the turnout

Nev­er­the­less, a per­cent­age of 37 means that 63% of the Dutch pop­u­la­tion stayed at home. According
to two Dutch sur­veys that have been car­ried out, this can be con­tributed to the notion that Dutch
cit­i­zens do not have an inter­est in the EU what­so­ev­er. 25% of the peo­ple asked even expressed a
strong resent­ment against the Euro­pean Union. So why did 37% of the Dutch pop­u­la­tion cast their
vote on Thurs­day 22 May 2014? Two expla­na­tions can be found. First of all, a fair num­ber of Dutch
cit­i­zens still believe that the Nether­lands is bet­ter off by stay­ing in the Euro­pean Union rather than
with­draw­ing from the Euro­pean Union. Sec­ond­ly, some polit­i­cal par­ties, such as the Christian
Democ­rats, have a loy­al con­stituen­cy who backed up their party’s can­di­dates, there­fore allow­ing them
to prof­it most from the low turnout.

Outcome

Twen­ty-six seats in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment were to be divid­ed in the Nether­lands. The divi­sion of
these twen­ty-six seats is as follows:

Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (CDA): 5
Democ­rats 66 (D66): 4
Par­ty for Free­dom (PVV): 4
Labour Par­ty (PvdA): 3
Peo­ple’s Par­ty for Free­dom and democ­ra­cy (VVD): 3
The Social­ist Par­ty (SP): 2
Green­Left (Groen­Links): 2
Coali­tion Chris­tia­nUnion (CU)/ Reformed Polit­i­cal Par­ty (SGP): 2
Par­ty for the Ani­mals (PvdD): 1

Explanation

The out­come of the elec­toral cam­paign is inter­est­ing for three main rea­sons. First, the Christian
Democ­rats obtained five seats despite the fact that they have lost a num­ber of vot­ers at the national
and munic­i­pal lev­els. Sec­ond­ly, when com­pared to the elec­tions in 2009, the loss of one seat for Geert
Wilders’ Par­ty for Free­dom is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing when a polit­i­cal land­slide was pre­dict­ed in the
Euro­pean Union in an attempt to cre­ate a Euro­pean alliance of euroscep­ti­cism in the European
Par­lia­ment. Final­ly, the num­ber of vot­ers that choose Democ­rats 66, a pro-Europe par­ty, is significant
since the expec­ta­tions were that the Dutch vot­ers were going to vote in great num­ber for eurosceptic
par­ties, as was the case in France. Based on the final out­come of the Euro­pean elec­tions, one can
assume that the Nether­lands is per­haps not as euroscep­tic as the euroscep­tic par­ties wish us to
believe.

Links:

  • Results-elections2014.eu, ‘Turnout’.
  • Results-elections2014.eu, ‘Results’.

2. The EU’s Neighbourhood

New difficulties arise in Russia-Dutch relations

The bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship between the Nether­lands and Rus­sia was estab­lished many cen­turies ago.
To tight­en this rela­tion­ship, the Nether­lands and Rus­sia agreed to declare the year 2013 as the Dutch-
Russ­ian Bilat­er­al Year. Both pres­i­dents signed a joint inten­tion dec­la­ra­tion, in which they confirmed
the bilat­er­al rela­tions between the two coun­tries, the con­tent of the pro­gramme, their com­mit­ment to
make this year a suc­cess and the frame in which future rela­tions are defined. The three themes on
which the Dutch-Rus­sia Bilat­er­al Year focused were: Econ­o­my, Cul­ture, Pol­i­tics and Soci­ety. The
Dutch/Russia year opened on 8 April 2013 and came to an end in Novem­ber, with the Dutch Royal
Fam­i­ly vis­it­ing Russia.

Besides a year full of fes­tiv­i­ties and the fur­ther deep­en­ing of bilat­er­al rela­tions, there were
unfor­tu­nate­ly sev­er­al inci­dents that did not cul­mi­nate in strength­en­ing the ties between the
Nether­lands and Rus­sia. For exam­ple, there was the Russ­ian import restric­tion on veal meat, the
Dol­ma­tov deba­cle, Rus­sia accept­ing legal pro­vi­sions pro­hibit­ing non-tra­di­tion­al rela­tions, the Russian
pota­to boy­cott, the arrest of the cap­tain and crew of the Arc­tic Sun­rise, the arrest of the Russian
diplo­mat Dmitri Borodin by the Dutch author­i­ties and the phys­i­cal abuse of the Dutch diplo­mat Onno
Elderen­bosch in Moscow along with many, many more. Despite these inci­dents, the for­mal stance of
the Dutch gov­ern­ment on the rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia is nev­er­the­less con­sid­ered to be healthy.
Though, with the recent events in the Ukraine and the down­ing of a com­mer­cial air­craft, the bilateral
as well as the polit­i­cal rela­tions via the Euro­pean Union are fur­ther chal­lenged. The Netherlands
togeth­er with the oth­er 27 EU Mem­ber States hold Rus­sia respon­si­ble for fur­ther desta­bil­is­ing the
East­ern region and sup­port the sanc­tions tak­en by the EU as a result of the down­ing of commercial
flight MH17, where 298 pas­sen­gers died, amongst them 196 Dutch cit­i­zens. Despite this tragedy, the
Nether­lands believe that the rela­tion­ship between the EU and Rus­sia should be main­tained, and hope
to find a solu­tion to these ongo­ing challenges.

Links:

Events in Ukraine reinforce the importance of improving the Eastern Neighbour Policy

The EU rela­tions with the East­ern Part­ner­ship Coun­tries are vital for the Nether­lands. The Netherlands
has always been of the opin­ion that pros­per­i­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in the EU neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, or the
lack there­of, has an influ­ence on the sta­bil­i­ty and pros­per­i­ty in the Euro­pean Union. There­fore, the
Nether­lands real­izes the impor­tance of the EU’s East­ern Part­ner­ship. Recent exam­ples such as the
ille­gal annex­a­tion of Crimea, bat­tles in Lugan­sk and Donet­sk, under­score the impor­tance of EU
rela­tions with the East­ern Part­ner­ship Coun­tries. The aim of the EU’s East­ern Part­ner­ship is to realise
polit­i­cal asso­ci­a­tion and eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion between the six coun­tries and the Euro­pean Union
through shared inter­est and shared val­ues even though no EU mem­ber­ship is offered.

On 27 March 2014 the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for Foreign
Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy adopt­ed the new Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy Pack­age. This policy
pack­age (includ­ing, amongst oth­ers, the progress report on East­ern Part­ner­ship) was dis­cussed at
nation­al lev­el in the Nether­lands. The ques­tion was: did we achieve the kind of eco­nom­ic and political
inte­gra­tion set out by the 2009 East­ern Pol­i­cy? The Nether­lands shares the real­is­tic, though worrying
assess­ment of the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy Pack­age and pro­pos­es a num­ber of
rec­om­men­da­tions on how to progress further.

First­ly, the EU must give some thought on how to use its ENP pol­i­cy and the avail­able tools at its
dis­pos­al to make the ENP more effec­tive. The Nether­lands pro­pos­es that the EU should con­duct an
inte­gral pol­i­cy, in which the con­text of trade func­tions as the key for the solu­tion and where an
incen­tive-based approach is favoured. Sec­ond­ly, the Nether­lands believe that the ENP should not
pres­sure the East­ern Coun­tries to make a choice between East and West. Specif­i­cal­ly with regard to
the Ukraine, the Nether­lands share and under­score the views by the EU made in its ENP reports, but
wish­es to add that the vio­lence against jour­nal­ists in the Ukraine should receive more attention.

Nonethe­less, the Nether­lands points out that the rela­tion­ship between the EU and its neighbouring
coun­tries can­not be imple­ment­ed with­out a sta­ble rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia. Rus­sia remains a strategic
part­ner of the Euro­pean Union and vice ver­sa and both ben­e­fit from sta­bil­i­ty and pros­per­i­ty at the
exter­nal bor­der. At this point, the sit­u­a­tion becomes com­plex. On one hand the Nether­lands perceives
Rus­sia as the enti­ty that cre­ates insta­bil­i­ty in the East­ern region, while this insta­bil­i­ty can­not be
resolved with­out the influ­ence of Rus­sia. In this sit­u­a­tion, the Nether­lands con­tin­ue to put pres­sure on
Rus­sia, forc­ing her to coop­er­ate and find a polit­i­cal solu­tion, while on the oth­er hand the Netherlands
sup­ports the Ukraine polit­i­cal­ly, eco­nom­i­cal­ly and socially.

Links:

Dutch sceptical about Turkey EU membership

On 14 Feb­ru­ary 2014 the Sixth Turk­ish-Dutch Bilat­er­al Con­fer­ence took place in Ankara. Dur­ing this
con­fer­ence the Dutch Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs stat­ed that “the Nether­lands will be one, once
nego­ti­a­tions have fin­ished, who glad­ly wel­come Turkey among the EU mem­ber states”. This
state­ment led to sev­er­al ques­tions on the nation­al lev­el. First the Dutch Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs was
asked whether it was wise to make such a claim since the nego­ti­a­tions had not yet begun. How does
this state­ment relate to the arrests of jour­nal­ists in Turkey? How does it relate to the open­ing of
nego­ti­a­tions and chal­lenges of Chap­ter 23 (Rule of Law and Fun­da­men­tal Rights) and Chap­ter 24
(Jus­tice, Free­dom and Secu­ri­ty)? Fur­ther­more how does it relate to the sit­u­a­tion of Cyprus, the
Armen­ian case, the Rule of Law, Democ­ra­cy and the recent devel­op­ments in Turkey relat­ing to
cor­rup­tion? The Dutch Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs replied to these ques­tions as fol­lows: that his
state­ment fell with­in the Dutch ‘strict and fair’-policy and that he was ful­ly aware of Turkey’s
short­com­ings regard­ing the Rule of Law and the pro­tec­tion of Human Rights, par­tic­u­lar­ly with
ref­er­ence to the right of free­dom of expres­sion and judi­cial pro­tec­tion. In addi­tion, the Dutch Foreign
Min­is­ter replied that Chap­ters 23 and 24 were blocked uni­lat­er­al­ly by Cyprus. With regard to the
Armen­ian geno­cide case, the Dutch FM argued that this mat­ter should be solved bilat­er­al­ly between
Turkey and Arme­nia. In addi­tion, the recog­ni­tion of the Armen­ian geno­cide by Turkey is not part of the
cri­te­ria to accede to the EU. How­ev­er, the Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs empha­sised that coun­tries should
strive for friend­ly rela­tion­ships with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. In that regard, Turkey dis­cussing the
Armen­ian mat­ter would be con­sid­ered constructive.

Apart from the pos­i­tive stand of the Dutch gov­ern­ment on the acces­sion of Turkey to the EU, some
polit­i­cal oppo­nents are strong­ly against Turkey’s mem­ber­ship to the EU, such as MEP Esther de
Lange of the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats. Accord­ing to her, Turkey should nev­er join the EU, because it does
not respect Euro­pean val­ues. Nonethe­less, she believes that Turkey must be offered an alternative
part­ner­ship. Turkey itself on the oth­er hand seems to have its own hes­i­ta­tions about whether it will
con­tin­ue the acces­sion pro­ce­dure, since it pos­sess­es its own prejudices.

Links:

3. Power relations in the EU

Germany, reluctant hegemon

Before one can answer the ques­tion of how the Nether­lands per­ceive Germany’s role in the EU,
anoth­er ques­tion needs to be answered first, name­ly: what is Germany’s role in the EU? There are two
per­spec­tives from which one can answer this. The first is from the Euro­pean- and world-mar­kets who
per­ceive Germany’s role in the EU as leader of the twen­ty-eight EU Mem­ber States. Accord­ing to
them, Ger­many has not been affect­ed by the eco­nom­ic cri­sis as bad­ly as the oth­er EU Member
States. More­over, Ger­many has a strong polit­i­cal leader and a strong and healthy econ­o­my. As a
result, the expec­ta­tions towards Ger­many are immense. They believe, or rather expect, that Germany
is able to solve the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, cre­ate sta­bil­i­ty in the Euro­zone, bring about a Euro­pean banking
union and take a lead­ing role in the devel­op­ment of a EU com­mon for­eign and secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy. Hence,
Ger­many must take on the role of leader with­in the Euro­pean Union.

Ger­many, on the oth­er hand, does not have the ambi­tion to take on a lead­er­ship role in the European
Union. Germany’s per­spec­tive about its role in the Euro­pean Union is one that takes responsibility,
one that is aware of its his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al back­ground, and its pow­er. More­over, Ger­many believes
that com­mon themes, like cre­at­ing eco­nom­ic finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and safe­ty in the Euro­pean Union, is to
be achieved joint­ly, rather than real­is­ing these aims by impos­ing them on oth­er EU coun­tries as the
leader of the Euro­pean Union. Hence, Germany’s view on its own role in the EU is ‘A European
Ger­many rather than a Ger­man Europe’.

Now that the two per­spec­tives on Germany’s role in the EU have been out­lined, the ques­tion remains:
how does the Nether­lands per­ceive Germany’s role in the Euro­pean Union?
In the Nether­lands, Germany’s role in the process of fur­ther Euro­pean inte­gra­tion has been, and will
be, deci­sive and exem­plary. To demon­strate, on 9 May 2011 the Pres­i­dent of the Dutch Sen­ate gave
his appraisal to Ger­many and the role Ger­many played in the Euro­pean coop­er­a­tion. More­over, over
the last few years the rela­tion­ship between the Dutch PM (Mark Rutte) and Ger­many has become
stronger. Both coun­tries seem to share sim­i­lar val­ues on how to secure eco­nom­ic and financial
sta­bil­i­ty in the Euro­zone. Fur­ther­more, the Nether­lands and Ger­many work togeth­er close­ly within
inter­na­tion­al forums, such as the Euro­pean Union, to secure safe­ty and eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty. Over­all, the
Dutch per­spec­tive on Germany’s role in the Euro­pean Union is pos­i­tive and received well. Such an
out­look is not entire­ly sur­pris­ing, since the bilat­er­al rela­tions between the Nether­lands and Germany
are strong and inten­sive. Main­tain­ing this cor­dial rela­tion­ship is vital for the Dutch econ­o­my, since
Ger­many is by far our most impor­tant busi­ness mar­ket. Nev­er­the­less, the his­tor­i­cal fear of Germany
get­ting too strong, impos­ing its will upon oth­er coun­tries, seems always to linger in the background.

Links:

Partners in austerity for now

In 2012 the aus­ter­i­ty vs. growth debate in the Nether­lands reached a cli­max after the res­ig­na­tion of
the minor­i­ty gov­ern­ment (cab­i­net Rutte I) with the sup­port in par­lia­ment of Geert Wilder’s Par­ty for
Free­dom, and a new cab­i­net had to be formed. In the mean­time, five polit­i­cal par­ties (VVD, CDA, D66,
GL en CU) reached an agree­ment known as the Spring Agree­ment (Lenteakko­ord) on 26 April 2012,
which pri­mar­i­ly includ­ed aus­ter­i­ty plans.

The upcom­ing elec­tions in 2012 forced polit­i­cal par­ties to state their bud­get plans.
The elec­tion pro­grammes demon­strat­ed that there was a gen­er­al agree­ment to cut costs, but a
dis­agree­ment on how to econ­o­mize and when to exe­cute these aus­ter­i­ty pro­grammes. Political
par­ties, like the Democ­rats 66 and the Social­ist Par­ty, were of the opin­ion not to cut down too
dras­ti­cal­ly; oth­er­wise these aus­ter­i­ty plans could bring the risk of more eco­nom­ic dam­age. The
People’s Par­ty for Free­dom and Democ­ra­cy (VVD) on the oth­er hand was a sup­port­er of severe
aus­ter­i­ty plans, while plac­ing them­selves in between, the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats and GreenLeft
pro­posed a mix­ture of invest­ments and bud­get cuts. In addi­tion, con­trary to the major­i­ty that presented
aus­ter­i­ty plans, Geert Wilders’ Par­ty for Free­dom promised tax reductions.

On 12th Sep­tem­ber 2012 Dutch cit­i­zens cast their vote for a new coali­tion. The Dutch vot­ers choose
either VVD (Lib­er­als) or PvdA (Social Democ­rats). Even­tu­al­ly, a new cab­i­net was formed com­posed of
Lib­er­als and Social Democ­rats. Accord­ing to the coali­tion agree­ment the new­ly formed coalition
‘reflects our search for the best of both worlds’. Based on this agree­ment, the new coali­tion has
pri­mar­i­ly exe­cut­ed an aus­ter­i­ty agen­da in the last few years, which is being met by polit­i­cal opposition.

Preferred options at the European level?

In the coali­tion agree­ment of the cur­rent Dutch gov­ern­ment there is a sep­a­rate chap­ter on the
rela­tion­ship between the Nether­lands and the Euro­pean Union. In this chap­ter the Dutch government
pro­vides an overview of all the points they wish to achieve at Euro­pean lev­el. One of these agenda
points is to ensure that EU Mem­ber States will be eco­nom­i­cal­ly and finan­cial­ly stronger. To realise this
objec­tive a Euro­pean bank­ing union must be estab­lished, the posi­tion of the Euro-Com­mis­sion­er must
be strength­ened and the bud­get of the EU can­not expand while nation­al bud­gets needs to make
cut­backs. Fur­ther­more, the Nether­lands must invest in the prop­er func­tion­ing of the Inter­nal Market
and cre­ate jobs.

Links:

  • Coali­tion agree­ment, ʿBuild­ing Bridgesʾ, under Get­ting the Nether­lands out of the cri­sis: solid,
    sound and social­ly respon­si­ble, People’s Par­ty for Free­dom and Democ­ra­cy (VVD) and the
    Labour Par­ty (PvdA), 29 Octo­ber 2012.

The Netherlands and UK, odd bed fellows

The debate on a pos­si­ble UK exit (Brex­it) has led to var­i­ous assess­ments in the Nether­lands on this
matter.

First of all, the for­mal stance of the Dutch gov­ern­ment is that the UK should stay in the European
Union. The debate over a pos­si­ble Brex­it clar­i­fied once again, the posi­tion of the Dutch gov­ern­ment in
rela­tion to the UK with regard to Euro­pean coop­er­a­tion. Con­cern­ing the euro cri­sis, bud­get con­trol, the
effi­cien­cy of the EU and trans­paren­cy, the Nether­lands and the UK share sim­i­lar con­cerns, making
them allies that need each oth­er to reform the EU from with­in. More­over, in view of the increasing
pow­er of Ger­many, the UK pro­vides a strong coun­ter­bal­ance. The posi­tion of the Nether­lands, staying
in the cen­tre between Ger­many, France and the UK, is cru­cial for the Nether­lands since it allows the
Nether­lands to seek alliances where need­ed and find pro­tec­tion to coun­ter­bal­ance views that are not
in line with the Dutch view on Euro­pean cooperation.

Sec­ond­ly, when David Cameron promised to hold an in-or-out ref­er­en­dum con­cern­ing the UK’s
par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Euro­pean Union, it allowed euro-scep­tic par­ties like Geert Wilders’ Par­ty for
Free­dom to take on Cameron’s pro­pos­al and argued that the Nether­lands should also hold a ballot.
How­ev­er, at the begin­ning of this year, the Dutch House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives decid­ed that this would
not happen.

Third­ly, the dis­cus­sion about a pos­si­ble Brex­it high­light­ed the two polit­i­cal views on the progress of
Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. These two out­looks basi­cal­ly boil down to the polit­i­cal view one has about the
Euro­pean Union itself, as for­mer MEP Lousewies van der Laan points out. Those who pre­fer a federal
Europe believe that the UK’s behav­iour in the EU would pre­vent fur­ther and deep­er inte­gra­tion. After
all, the UK is not a mem­ber of the Schen­gen-area, has an opt-out with regard to the areas of freedom,
secu­ri­ty and jus­tice, has its own cur­ren­cy rather than being a mem­ber of the Euro­zone, and intends to
with­draw its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the fun­da­men­tal rights dis­course. On the oth­er hand, those who do not
wish to see a fed­er­al Europe and fear a Germany’s Europe, find it of cru­cial impor­tance that the UK
remains in the Euro­pean Union in order to coun­ter­bal­ance the pow­er of Ger­many, some­thing which
France lacks the abil­i­ty to provide.

Final­ly, in the assess­ment of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the UK leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, the ques­tion was
raised whether the EU would sur­vive a British exit. Some argue that the EU would sur­vive a Brexit,
because the UK is not part of the vital areas such as the Euro­zone. How­ev­er, such a view fails to
recog­nise that the UK is part of one of the most vital areas of the Euro­pean Union, name­ly the Internal
Mar­ket. More­over, such a view does not grasp the notion that the Nether­lands and the UK share
sim­i­lar ideas on the econ­o­my, trans­paren­cy, democ­ra­cy and the Inter­nal Mar­ket. Fur­ther­more, one
should keep in mind that Cameron does want to stay in the Inter­nal Mar­ket, but is in favour of a
rene­go­ti­a­tion of cer­tain ele­ments of the British EU mem­ber­ship. For the Nether­lands it is impor­tant that
the UK stays with­in the Euro­pean Union. As such, the Nether­lands has an ally for EU reform and, if
need­ed, the UK’s pow­er to coun­ter­bal­ance that of Germany.

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2014. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2014. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 10 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.