Dutch plans for EU reform

Dutch plans for EU reform

The Dutch government is calling for reform to the European Union’s current structure in order for it to "fit the 21st century," ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans expressed the government’s position in an article in the Financieel Dagblad, claiming that despite a strong response to the financial crisis, Europe's governance remains unfocused and unbalanced.

"The member states must restore the political balance in the EU, help it regain its focus and make the EU work for Europeans again," he said.

The government is keen to encourage a broad debate in Europe on how to make the European Union both more effective and more modest. Timmermans announced in Brussels that the Netherlands will be hosting an expert conference in The Hague in January 2014 on enhancing the EU’s focus.

"The Netherlands is not seeking to amend the present treaty," said the minister. "We are happy with the existing division of powers. We just believe that a shift in emphasis on various issues would be useful."

This announcement is part of the government's plans to be "European where necessary, national where possible," turning away from EU rules in favour of national ones.

A new manifesto

The Netherlands’ first proposal is to negotiate a European Governance Manifesto with member states, the incoming commission and the European Parliament for the next five years.

It wishes this manifesto to clearly demarcate the areas of responsibility held by Europe and by member states. This may result in more Europe in some areas and less in others.

A reformed commission

It also wants a smaller, reformed European Commission with a president and vice-presidents heading a limited number of policy areas, with only vice-presidents allowed to initiate legislation.

Stronger national parliaments

The Netherlands’ would also encourage other national parliaments to work on their co-operation with each other and the European parliament.

It also wants to see national parliaments have the right to summon commissioners to their capitals.

EU response

Both the European Commission and other member states have expressed interest in a discussion on reducing the EU’s regulatory burden.

They are also looking at discussing enhancing the EU’s effectiveness in crucial areas of co-operation such as responses to the financial crisis, energy, climate, asylum and migration policy, completion of the internal market and defence.

EU citizen discontent

Timmermans identified change at the 2014 elections as vital because, due in great part to the crisis, voters don’t believe political parties are able to address their concerns.

He feels they are being "lured by the Europhobic populist pied pipers who portray a glorious nationalist past that never was as a model for a future that will never be."

He added that Europe's leaders cannot just sit back and let events unfold, rather that they need to take charge of Europe again.

"The Europe of Monnet has served us well over the past 60 years. But it needs to adjust to the challenges at hand. Europeans distrust a Europe that overpromises and underdelivers."

Source: Government of the Netherlands

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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