The Netherlands and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty: a wait and see attitude

Herman Van Rompuy

With regard to the appoint­ment of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, the Dutch media spec­u­lat­ed about the Dutch Prime Min­is­ter, Jan Peter Balke­nende, as a rival to Van Rompuy.11Ron Meer­hof: Balke­nende voork­wam in Brus­sel ‘ein­de­loos gedoe’, De Volk­skrant, 21 Novem­ber 2009. Balke­nende him­self denied that there was an active lob­by from his side to obtain the posi­tion.22NRC Han­dels­blad: Pre­mier erkent dat zijn naam viel, 2 Decem­ber 2009. The nation­al par­lia­ment debat­ed about the posi­tion of Balke­nende in this pro­ce­dure. The oppo­si­tion stat­ed that the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the Dutch Prime Min­is­ter was down­grad­ed by his appar­ent ambi­tion to become the first Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil. Politi­cians in The Hague had mixed feel­ings about the appoint­ment of Van Rompuy. How­ev­er, they share a pos­i­tive view on the appoint­ment of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a small mem­ber state.33De Volk­skrant: Gemengde reac­ties op benoem­ing Van Rompuy, 20 Novem­ber 2009.

Lit­tle ref­er­ence has been made in the last months to the role and per­son of Van Rompuy. The atti­tude of the Dutch press could be inter­pret­ed as an atti­tude of “wait and see”. The few arti­cles that refer to Van Rompuy him­self describe him as a calm con­sen­sus seek­ing per­son and a prag­mat­ic.44Mar­tin Viss­er: Homo prag­mati­cus in roerige tij­den, Het Finan­cieele Dag­blad, 10 April 2010. In the Nether­lands, the idea of more Euro­pean Coun­cil sum­mits, as pro­posed at the infor­mal sum­mit in Feb­ru­ary 2010, was not received well. The Dutch Prime Min­is­ter has stat­ed that in his opin­ion four sum­mits should be suf­fi­cient.55Jeroen van der Kris: EU-lei­der wil vak­er topover­leg, NRC Han­dels­blad, 13–14 Feb­ru­ary 2010.

Sev­er­al news­pa­pers and both cham­bers of par­lia­ment are pay­ing atten­tion to the new divi­sion of pow­er between the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Euro­pean Coun­cil as a result of the enter­ing into force of the Treaty of Lis­bon. A month­ly sum­mit would give the heads of state and gov­ern­ment more pos­si­bil­i­ty to take ini­tia­tive at the expense of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. As one of the small­er EU mem­ber states, the Nether­lands is his­tor­i­cal­ly in favour of a strong Com­mis­sion.66Ibid. It is feared that the new func­tion of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil could result in a shift towards a more inter­gov­ern­men­tal Euro­pean Union.77Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1080; Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1110.

The new role of the rotating presidency

The EU pres­i­den­cy of Spain is viewed as a test case for the new con­stel­la­tion of the rotat­ing pres­i­den­cy under Lis­bon.88Leonoor Kuijk: Roulerend voorzit­ter voor­taan ondergeschikt aan nieuwe EU-pres­i­dent: EU-voorzit­ter Span­je is proe­fkoni­jn, Trouw, 19 Decem­ber 2009. Because of the new and more spe­cif­ic role for the pres­i­den­cy, the achieve­ments and tasks are less vis­i­ble for the pub­lic and the media than before.99Iña­ki Oñorbe Gen­ovesi: Een dis­crete voorzit­ter, maar vooral onzicht­baar, De Volk­skrant, 19 April 2010.

Catherine Ashton

Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Maxime Ver­ha­gen has made the obser­va­tion that a well func­tion­ing High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy and Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice (EEAS) are in the Dutch inter­est because they pro­mote the pos­si­bil­i­ty to speak with one voice.1010Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21 501–02, nr. 958, 18–19. To make sure that the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive can car­ry out a clear, strong and uni­fied stand­point, the mem­ber states should be pre­pared to work con­struc­tive­ly on com­mon visions on impor­tant dossiers. Ver­ha­gen under­lined the neces­si­ty for Cather­ine Ash­ton to have enough finan­cial assets and instru­ments at her dis­pos­al to make sure that she can work in an effec­tive way. The Dutch For­eign Min­is­ter states that she needs the pos­si­bil­i­ty to appoint deputies because in prac­tice it is impos­si­ble to be in three places at the same time. These should be high placed peo­ple with­in the EEAS, for exam­ple the Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al or his deputies. Ash­ton would be polit­i­cal­ly respon­si­ble for her deputies.1111Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1111.

With regard to Catharine Ash­ton, there has been even less atten­tion than for the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil. In Feb­ru­ary, for­mer Dutch State Sec­re­tary of Defence Jack de Vries stat­ed on Twit­ter that “she is con­spic­u­ous by her absence.”1212Petra de Kon­ing: Wrev­el over optre­den Ash­ton groeit: In ogen van regerin­gen kan EU-buiten­land­chef weinig goed doen, NRC Han­dels­blad, 26 Feb­ru­ary 2010. The Dutch media report­ed some crit­i­cism of Ash­ton.1313Ibid; Marc Peep­erko­rn: Buiten­lands gezicht van EU worstelt met Ima­go, De Volk­skrant, 24 Feb­ru­ary 2010. Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen defend­ed Ash­ton dur­ing the Sum­mit in Cor­do­ba and talked about the grow­ing pains of her func­tion: “It is some­thing com­plete­ly new. It has to set­tle down.” He acknowl­edged that a con­sid­er­able num­ber of mem­ber states and media pose ques­tions about the func­tion­ing of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive: “But it is in the inter­est of the Nether­lands to have a strong High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive. I do not believe that it is use­ful to join the choir of crit­i­cism.”1414De Volk­skrant: Ver­ha­gen neemt ’t op voor Ash­ton, 5 March 2010.

The Netherlands are reasonably satisfied with the draft decision on the EEAS

For­eign Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen holds the view that mem­ber states have to be pre­pared to com­pro­mise with regard to the Union’s exter­nal pol­i­cy. Effi­cien­cy in for­mu­lat­ing an exter­nal EU pol­i­cy is vital.1515Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1116. Accord­ing to Ver­ha­gen, the Nether­lands are rea­son­ably sat­is­fied with the draft deci­sion on the EEAS because the pro­pos­al is clos­er to the line of action of Octo­ber 2009 than was antic­i­pat­ed. It pro­vides room to the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to fill in some of the details at a lat­er stage.

The Dutch gov­ern­ment wants more cer­tain­ty on the out­line of the EEAS before approv­ing the pro­pos­al. The For­eign Min­is­ter will not give a carte blanche with­out a clear view of how cer­tain posi­tions will be filled and how the EEAS will be financed. It is also impor­tant to know how the top of the organ­i­sa­tion will func­tion, inter­nal­ly and exter­nal­ly, includ­ing its rela­tion to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.1616Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 962, p. 1–6, Kabi­net­sap­pre­ci­atie EDEO, 19 April 2010.

The Dutch gov­ern­ment sticks firm­ly to its posi­tion that one third of the func­tions of the EEAS should be filled by EU mem­ber states. There are sev­er­al rea­sons for this. First of all, this allows for the appoint­ment of already high­ly expe­ri­enced diplo­mats from each mem­ber state. Sec­ond­ly, com­bin­ing expe­ri­ence in the civ­il ser­vice and for­eign pol­i­cy will con­tribute to a high qual­i­ty of com­mon Euro­pean exter­nal pol­i­cy. Impor­tant­ly, this does not mean that qual­i­ty should come sec­ond to equal geo­graph­ic spread­ing, i.e., allow­ing all mem­ber states to appoint a cer­tain share of per­son­nel.1717Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1113. It is of vital impor­tance to the Dutch gov­ern­ment that the EEAS will present a coher­ent and inte­grat­ed exter­nal EU pol­i­cy to the out­side world. After the final imple­men­ta­tion of the EEAS, the Nether­lands expect to employ 15–25 of its diplo­mats in the ser­vice of the EEAS.1818Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 31 384 (R1850), nr. 28, 5. The sta­tus of agent tem­po­raire will assure that all employ­ees of the EEAS will have the same rights and duties. This has been an impor­tant point for the Dutch government.

As a result of the Lis­bon Treaty, EU del­e­ga­tions can oper­ate in inter­na­tion­al organ­i­sa­tions and third coun­tries under the direc­tive of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Accord­ing to the Nether­lands, this is impor­tant for the coher­ence of exter­nal EU actions. The draft-deci­sion states that Union del­e­ga­tions should be able to assist mem­ber states in their diplo­mat­ic rela­tions and give con­sular pro­tec­tion to EU cit­i­zens. The Nether­lands is sat­is­fied with the option of giv­ing the EEAS con­sular tasks, and will push for a speed­ing up of its intro­duc­tion. In addi­tion, the Dutch gov­ern­ment is a sup­port­er of a trans­fer of the for­mer tasks of the rotat­ing pres­i­den­cies to Union del­e­ga­tions. This will include tasks such as exter­nal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the EU and inter­nal coor­di­na­tion of for­eign pol­i­cy posi­tions.1919Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 962, p. 1–6, Kabi­net­sap­pre­ci­atie EDEO, 19 April 2010.

The Nether­lands deems it essen­tial that the deputies of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive are clear­ly organ­ised. The Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the EEAS and his deputies are seen as pos­si­ble rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the High Com­mis­sion­er. The Nether­lands does not oppose deputies of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to be direct­ly answer­able in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, although this should not be the stan­dard sit­u­a­tion. The Dutch gov­ern­ment is in favour of the tran­si­tion of the geo­graph­ic desks from the Com­mis­sion and the Coun­cil Sec­re­tari­at to the EEAS to pre­vent dupli­ca­tion. It is also empha­sised that there should be enough capac­i­ty at the EEAS to per­form its pro­gram­ming tasks, for exam­ple in the case of devel­op­ment aid.2020Ibid.

In line with these posi­tions, the gov­ern­ment has demon­strat­ed its favour regard­ing a prop­er bal­ance between the readi­ness of the EEAS – by giv­ing it its own capac­i­ty and by using the capac­i­ties of the Coun­cil Sec­re­tari­at – and the ser­vices of the Com­mis­sion. The Dutch gov­ern­ment stress­es the need to con­tin­u­ous­ly eval­u­ate the imple­men­ta­tion process lead­ing to the for­ma­tion of the EEAS in order to iden­ti­fy and solve insuf­fi­cien­cies (like the uni­fi­ca­tion of insti­tu­tions and shifts between insti­tu­tions and bud­gets). Prefer­ably, the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive would report to the Euro­pean Coun­cil on the func­tion­ing of the EEAS. Accord­ing to the Dutch gov­ern­ment, the 2014 eval­u­a­tion should be as broad as pos­si­ble. Besides this, the Nether­lands attach­es much impor­tance to bud­getary con­trol of the EEAS by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.2121Ibid.

Accord­ing to For­eign Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen the coor­di­na­tion of devel­op­ment aid will become eas­i­er because the EEAS will also set the strate­gic pro­gram­ming of the EU.2222Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1114. The Nether­lands high­ly val­ues EU devel­op­ment aid and empha­sis­es that the EEAS should take care of set­ting the devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties. The Dutch gov­ern­ment stress­es that enough atten­tion should be giv­en to spe­cif­ic devel­op­ment aid pol­i­cy guide­lines.2323Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 962, p. 1–6; Kabi­net­sap­pre­ci­atie EDEO, 19 April 2010.

European Citizens’ Initiative, discussion about numbers

The Nether­lands is a sup­port­er of the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive because the intro­duc­tion of this instru­ment could lead to more involve­ment of cit­i­zens with­in the EU. The gov­ern­ment under­lines that the instru­ment should be as sim­ple and work­able as pos­si­ble. The Dutch gov­ern­ment feels the cur­rent pro­pos­al is in line with these require­ments. At the same time, the Nether­lands will close­ly watch the bal­ance between, on the one hand, acces­si­bil­i­ty, and, on the oth­er hand, rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The pos­si­bil­i­ty to reg­is­ter dec­la­ra­tions of sup­port online, improv­ing the acces­si­bil­i­ty of the instru­ment, is appre­ci­at­ed. How­ev­er, the Nether­lands is crit­i­cal towards the rules, which force the ini­tia­tors and sup­port­ers to pro­vide a mul­ti­tude of infor­ma­tion. This acts con­trary to the acces­si­bil­i­ty of the instru­ment. It is also deemed unnec­es­sary because of the intro­duc­tion by the Com­mis­sion of a recep­tiv­i­ty test after 30,000 sig­na­tures are collected.

The Dutch gov­ern­ment agrees with the cur­rent pro­pos­al that 1,000,000 nec­es­sary sig­na­tures must be col­lect­ed with­in one year and should be from at least one third of the mem­ber states. But the Nether­lands is crit­i­cal about the min­i­mum amount of sig­na­tures required per mem­ber state. The Green Paper orig­i­nal­ly stat­ed that the min­i­mum would be 0.2 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion per mem­ber state, but the pro­pos­al deter­mines the min­i­mum amount of sig­na­tures per mem­ber state by mul­ti­ply­ing the num­ber of Mem­bers of Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (MEPs) from the mem­ber state by 750. That would amount to the same as 19,500 sig­na­tures from the Nether­lands (approx­i­mate­ly 0.12 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion). The Nether­lands would pre­fer to set the min­i­mum amount of sig­na­tures from its own coun­try at 40,000 (around 0.2 per­cent of the population).

Final­ly, the Nether­lands and the Com­mis­sion share the opin­ion that the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the authen­tic­i­ty check lies with the mem­ber states. The pri­va­cy aspect will have the full atten­tion of the Dutch gov­ern­ment dur­ing the devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive.2424Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 960, p. 1 and 5; Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1112.

    Footnotes

  • 1Ron Meer­hof: Balke­nende voork­wam in Brus­sel ‘ein­de­loos gedoe’, De Volk­skrant, 21 Novem­ber 2009.
  • 2NRC Han­dels­blad: Pre­mier erkent dat zijn naam viel, 2 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 3De Volk­skrant: Gemengde reac­ties op benoem­ing Van Rompuy, 20 Novem­ber 2009.
  • 4Mar­tin Viss­er: Homo prag­mati­cus in roerige tij­den, Het Finan­cieele Dag­blad, 10 April 2010.
  • 5Jeroen van der Kris: EU-lei­der wil vak­er topover­leg, NRC Han­dels­blad, 13–14 Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 6Ibid.
  • 7Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1080; Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1110.
  • 8Leonoor Kuijk: Roulerend voorzit­ter voor­taan ondergeschikt aan nieuwe EU-pres­i­dent: EU-voorzit­ter Span­je is proe­fkoni­jn, Trouw, 19 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 9Iña­ki Oñorbe Gen­ovesi: Een dis­crete voorzit­ter, maar vooral onzicht­baar, De Volk­skrant, 19 April 2010.
  • 10Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21 501–02, nr. 958, 18–19.
  • 11Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1111.
  • 12Petra de Kon­ing: Wrev­el over optre­den Ash­ton groeit: In ogen van regerin­gen kan EU-buiten­land­chef weinig goed doen, NRC Han­dels­blad, 26 Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 13Ibid; Marc Peep­erko­rn: Buiten­lands gezicht van EU worstelt met Ima­go, De Volk­skrant, 24 Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 14De Volk­skrant: Ver­ha­gen neemt ’t op voor Ash­ton, 5 March 2010.
  • 15Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1116.
  • 16Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 962, p. 1–6, Kabi­net­sap­pre­ci­atie EDEO, 19 April 2010.
  • 17Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1113.
  • 18Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 31 384 (R1850), nr. 28, 5.
  • 19Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 962, p. 1–6, Kabi­net­sap­pre­ci­atie EDEO, 19 April 2010.
  • 20Ibid.
  • 21Ibid.
  • 22Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1114.
  • 23Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 962, p. 1–6; Kabi­net­sap­pre­ci­atie EDEO, 19 April 2010.
  • 24Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21501–02 nr. 960, p. 1 and 5; Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1112.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 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.