The Netherlands: “firm but fair” towards new EU member states

The Nether­lands’ posi­tion is luke­warm towards fur­ther EU enlarge­ment. Many polit­i­cal par­ties hold scep­ti­cal views towards a pos­si­ble acces­sion of new mem­ber states. All polit­i­cal par­ties have clear stand­points regard­ing the pos­si­ble acces­sion of cer­tain coun­tries or regions to the EU. Dur­ing last year’s elec­tions for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and in the upcom­ing nation­al elec­tions the pos­si­ble acces­sion of Turkey to the EU is a point of dis­cus­sion, with the Par­ty for Free­dom (PVV) being par­tic­u­lar­ly vocal about its oppo­si­tion to Turk­ish EU mem­ber­ship. Almost all polit­i­cal par­ties state spe­cif­ic stand­points on EU enlarge­ment on their web­sites and a major­i­ty of these web­sites report on pos­si­ble enlarge­ment with cer­tain coun­tries. Regard­ing a pos­si­ble EU enlarge­ment, some polit­i­cal par­ties raise the issue of the EU’s absorp­tion capac­i­ty and the neces­si­ty to increase this absorp­tion capac­i­ty before new coun­tries can enter the Union.11See the web­sites of the dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal par­ties, avail­able at:;;;;;;;; (last access: 22 June 2010).

The coun­tries of the West­ern Balkan are a spe­cial case. The Nether­lands sees coop­er­a­tion with the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for the for­mer Yugoslavia (ICTY) as a con­di­tion for entry into the EU. For­eign Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen stat­ed fur­ther­more that the Nether­lands would be firm but fair regard­ing the Copen­hagen cri­te­ria, in the sense that coun­tries that want to access the EU have to ful­fil these cri­te­ria as well as imple­ment the acquis.22Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1117.

The “Icesave case”

Dutch pub­lic opin­ion and media are crit­i­cal towards Iceland’s appli­ca­tion for EU mem­ber­ship. The prime rea­son is the bank­rupt­cy of Iceland’s bank­ing sec­tor, which affect­ed Dutch con­sumers and local author­i­ties with sav­ings on Ice­landic banks. The pop­u­lar Ice­save bank may be seen as an exam­ple. Ini­tial­ly, the Dutch gov­ern­ment, which had agreed on a repay­ment scheme with the Ice­landic gov­ern­ment, com­pen­sat­ed Dutch vic­tims of Icesave’s bank­rupt­cy. How­ev­er, in March 2010, the Ice­landic peo­ple vot­ed against the agree­ment to pay back com­pen­sa­tion loans to the Nether­lands and the Unit­ed King­dom in a ref­er­en­dum. This has had a neg­a­tive effect on rela­tions between Ice­land and the Nether­lands.33Melle Garscha­gen: Bevolk­ing IJs­land wijst Ice­save-akko­ord af, NRC Han­dels­blad, 6 March 2010.

For­eign Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen has made two con­sid­er­a­tions regard­ing the appli­ca­tion for EU mem­ber­ship by Ice­land. First­ly, with­out the Ice­save dis­cus­sion there would not have been a dis­cus­sion about Iceland’s appli­ca­tion for EU mem­ber­ship. Sec­ond­ly, if Ice­land wants to become an EU mem­ber, the coun­try should apply the acquis com­mu­nau­taire like every oth­er can­di­date state. Part of the duties that arise from the acquis are the duties regard­ing the Euro­pean Eco­nom­ic Area (EEA) of which Ice­land is a mem­ber. The com­pli­ance with the direc­tive on deposit-guar­an­tee schemes is part of the duties of the EEA. At this moment, the Nether­lands is wait­ing for Ice­land to return to the nego­ti­a­tion table. The Nether­lands is pre­pared to talk about the pro­vi­sions under which Ice­land will be able to ful­fil its duties. Some par­ties state that acces­sion talks could cre­ate a frame­work and be used as addi­tion­al instru­ments to call Ice­land to order and accept its duties accord­ing to the acquis in a Euro­pean con­text.

The Dutch gov­ern­ment stat­ed that it is absolute­ly out of the ques­tion that Ice­land will join the EU with­out ful­fill­ing the whole acquis com­mu­nau­taire, includ­ing the duties based on the deposit-guar­an­tee scheme.44Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21 501–02, nr. 958, 14–17. The best way for Ice­land to join the EU is to show the abil­i­ty to meet its com­mit­ments regard­ing the deposit-guar­an­tee scheme and to agree to the reim­burse­ment of the loans of the Nether­lands and the Unit­ed King­dom regard­ing the Ice­save dis­pute.55Tweede Kamer: Ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 23 987, nr. 107, 3.

Special emphasis on the Western Balkan

The Nether­lands per­ceives con­sid­er­able pres­sure to accept the Balkan states as EU mem­bers.66Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1081. Regard­ing a pos­si­ble acces­sion of the Balka­ns, the Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs does not men­tion dates. Rather, ful­fil­ment of the cri­te­ria will be need­ed. He also oppos­es EU enlarge­ment in groups. Every coun­try should be judged on its own mer­its.77Ibid., 26–1117.

Accord­ing to Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen, Ser­bia is work­ing seri­ous­ly on the reforms need­ed for acces­sion. This is clear­ly marked in the progress report of the Com­mis­sion. In his opin­ion, Ser­bia has the most pro­fes­sion­al gov­ern­ment of all coun­tries in the West­ern Balka­ns. Ser­bia has an actu­al mod­erni­sa­tion agen­da and the capac­i­ty to exe­cute these mod­erni­sa­tions. The Dutch gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers com­plete coop­er­a­tion with the ICTY as an impor­tant con­di­tion for pos­si­ble acces­sion.

The Dutch gov­ern­ment is con­cerned about the increas­ing nation­al­is­tic rhetoric and polit­i­cal ten­sions in Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina. Accord­ing to Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen, the Day­ton Treaty brought peace, but the state struc­ture and the Day­ton con­sti­tu­tion are mak­ing the coun­try ungovern­able and dys­func­tion­al. At the same time, the patience of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty is wear­ing thin. The polit­i­cal lead­ers have to take more respon­si­bil­i­ty: “We have to urge them and con­vince the par­ties that mutu­al coop­er­a­tion is the only option. How­ev­er, already promis­ing Bosnia that it will one day be able to join the NATO or the EU could have an adverse effect.”88Ibid., 20 April 2010, 26–1118.

Turkey important during elections

Polit­i­cal par­ties in the Nether­lands are very crit­i­cal towards a pos­si­ble entry of Turkey into the EU and pos­si­ble acces­sion was even con­sid­ered an impor­tant dis­cus­sion top­ic dur­ing the 2009 elec­tions for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. In polit­i­cal debates dur­ing elec­tion time, right-wing PVV has been espe­cial­ly opposed to Turk­ish acces­sion to the EU. Oth­er par­ties except for the Greens and Lib­er­al Democ­rats (Groen­Links and D66), are crit­i­cal on their web­sites and in their elec­tion pro­grammes of an even­tu­al acces­sion of Turkey to the EU. On a pos­si­ble acces­sion of Turkey, Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen stat­ed that Turkey could have an impor­tant bridg­ing func­tion and could con­tribute to a dia­logue between cul­tures instead of a “clash of civil­i­sa­tions”. Accord­ing to the Nether­lands, the reform process in Turkey has been delayed in the last few years. The speed of these reforms should be accel­er­at­ed. Accord­ing to Min­is­ter Ver­ha­gen, Turkey should be aware of the fact that the nego­ti­a­tions are an open-end­ed process and Turkey has to make a move. The Dutch goal remains that acces­sion talks are direct­ed at acces­sion, with­out the out­come being fixed.99Ibid.


  • 1See the web­sites of the dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal par­ties, avail­able at:;;;;;;;; (last access: 22 June 2010).
  • 2Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1117.
  • 3Melle Garscha­gen: Bevolk­ing IJs­land wijst Ice­save-akko­ord af, NRC Han­dels­blad, 6 March 2010.
  • 4Tweede Kamer: ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 21 501–02, nr. 958, 14–17.
  • 5Tweede Kamer: Ver­gader­jaar 2009–2010, 23 987, nr. 107, 3.
  • 6Eerste Kamer: Algemene Europese beschouwin­gen, 20 April 2010, 26–1081.
  • 7Ibid., 26–1117.
  • 8Ibid., 20 April 2010, 26–1118.
  • 9Ibid.

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.