EU: Netherlands to play 'critical role' for US says expert
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The Netherlands was one of the founding members of the EU — then known as the European Economic Community — and conducts three-quarters of its trade with the bloc. The nation takes part in every single European programme which has been rolled out, and neighbours one of the bloc’s largest member states, Germany. However, it has found itself at the centre of recent bitter rows between the member states, subsequently prompting concerns that euroscepticism is growing in the Netherlands.
The Dutch have pushed back against the plans for big spending on post-pandemic recovery and is one of the so-called ‘Frugal Four’ — along with Austria, Denmark and Sweden — who resisted the EU budget last year.
It wanted at least €200billion (£174billion) in cuts for the proposed €500billion (£436billion) programme, triggering frustration among the bigger member states.
Indeed, Europe correspondent Caroline de Gruyter claimed the Dutch have been “sceptical about European integration” for a long time, and even adopted a particularly tough stance in the bloc up until the UK joined in 1973.
She said: “It is clear the Dutch feel better in Europe with the British on their side.
“And that problems they currently have are partly the result of Brexit.”
She explained: “Apart from a Protestant culture, they have much else in common with the British: their love of the sea, a sober outlook on life and a commercial disposition.
“Both are liberal, seafaring and trading nations that once had overseas empires used to striking out on their own.”
The Dutch also speak English exceptionally well, and according to the commentator, are typically “Anglophiles”.
Like the British, the Dutch had only looked for a loose international alliance in the aftermath of World War 2 — and were subsequently opposed to the idea of joining political forces with its European neighbours.
However, Ms de Gruyter claimed the Netherlands had “little choice” at the time, as its economy was in dire straits following the war, so instead the nation came up with a plan.
Ms de Guyter added: “From the first day, The Hague had a mission: to get the UK to join.”
Once Britain joined, the Netherlands had a companion in its liberal battles.
When British euroscepticism emerged as the EU introduced the Schengen Area and the EU, “Dutch ambivalence” resurfaced, too.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggestion of “repatriation of powers” from Brussels was supported by many in the Netherlands, in protest against deepening European integration.
The Dutch are believed to be against joint European defence, the common foreign policy of shared taxes.
But, when Brexit was finalised, the Dutch were left in a sticky position. Ms de Gupter noted: “Brexit weakens the liberal, northern voice in Brussels.
“It strengthens the power of Germany and France, and of Europe’s south.”
The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is reportedly desperate to avoid Nexit; the Netherlands’ exit from the EU.
However, many have compared his current situation to that of Mr Cameron’s before he called the EU referendum of 2016, as Mr Rutte is continually ignoring the growing anti-European sentiment in his country.
A poll from The European Council on Foreign Relations published in July, revealed that the Dutch public are among the most disappointed in their government out of all the EU member states.
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Indeed, Dutch political scientist Catherine De Vries claimed: “If Dutch politicians don’t explain for a very long time how the Dutch economy benefits from the single market, it’s very difficult to explain why the Dutch should pay for the single market.
“That reminds me very much of the British discussions.”
Mr Rutte’s solution to Brexit is to try and forge new alliances with the bloc in Britain’s absence.
However, the Netherlands’ reputation for its recent disagreeable nature could present a major obstacle to its relationship with its southern neighbours.
Rome’s foreign ministry reportedly sent around a memo last April, in the midst of the covid recovery discussions, which read: “Let the Dutch speak and take the diametrically opposite position.”
However, other nations have suggested that the Dutch are pivotal to the EU.
The French President Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times that the bloc’s fate effectively rested on Germany and the Netherlands agreeing to “financial transfers and solidarity” to dodge populism in the major member states.
Senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute, Rem Korteweg, claimed: “On economic and financial issues the Netherlands always likes to be Robin to Germany’s Batman.”
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Yet, during the EU budget discussions last February, Mr Rutte was reportedly described as “childish” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel after her Dutch counterpart brought a biography to get through the night.
When asked why, he responded by asking “what else is there to do”, seemingly undermining the Netherlands’ role in the negotiations.
This is not the first time reports of Dutch discontent towards the EU have emerged.
Before the eleventh hour Brexit trade deal with the EU was struck in December, Dutch MEP Jan Eppink demanded the bloc focus on protecting the EU’s fishing industry.
He warned that if there was a no deal Brexit, the fishing sector would collapse across the bloc.
He added: “We will not abandon this national interest for us.
“It’s heavily anchored in Dutch culture and we need to support Dutch fishermen at any price.
“So bilateral negotiations, if there is a failure, need to remain possible.
“It’s true that we’ve had 400 years of conflict with the British, but we need to do better this time.”
It is worth noting that Amsterdam has actually enjoyed a new status in recent weeks, after displacing the City of London as Europe’s top stocks centre after Brexit.
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