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Friday, October 01, 2010

Which Coalition is tougher on EU: NL or UK?

The Dutch Liberals and Christian Democrats yesterday presented their proposal for a coalition agreement, allowing the two parties to form a minority government (supported in parliament by Geert Wilders' uber-populist PVV party).

The agreement still needs to be approved by the Christian Democrat's party congress tomorrow, but it sheds some light on how people (and their elected representatives) in one of the founding member states have started to think about the European Union.

In fact, the Europe section of the agreement - see here and here - bears striking resemblances to the coalition pact agreed a few months ago in the UK.

For example, the Dutch pact says:

European spending, policy development and transfer of competences to the European level cannot happen unhindered...With the Lisbon treaty...the limits for transfers of national competences to the EU have been reached. In the existing context the EU should function in an optimal way and at the service of the citizen. The attention should primarily go to fiscal soberness, promoting economic growth, improving legal and security cooperation and make external policy more effective.
So just like the British government, the Dutch one promises no more transfer of powers. Incidentally, this could amount to another "obstacle" for German demands for Treaty change in addition to those already possibly existing in Ireland (legal referendum requirement) and Austria (political referendum requirement). Although a Treaty change to introduce a state insolvency procedure may actually win broad support as taxpayers in the Netherlands could stand to gain, and it could make the eurozone fairer.

On the EU budget, the agreement states:

Reform of the EU budget is necessary, meaning that the contributions by the member states need to become more balanced and more transparent. The cabinet will make an effort for a substantial reduction in Dutch contributions to the EU in the negotiations on the upcoming financial perspective.
In fact, incoming PM Mark Rutte has said that the coalition will demand a €1 billion reduction in the country’s yearly €7 billion contribution to the EU budget, in addition to keeping its current €1 billion rebate from the budget in place.

Similar position to the British, although this looks like an even tougher negotiation stance than that of the UK coalition at this point.

In regards to existing EU laws, the Dutch agreement says:

Where national policy is limited by legal borders, the Netherlands will make an effort within the EU or any other context to change treaties, directives or other agreements.
And specifically with regards to immigration and asylum:

The cabinet will take initiatives to adapt EU directives and if there appears to be no alternatives for important measures, in consultation with other member states it will seek to modify the Treaties.
The focus on immigration laws (and an implicit swipe at enlargement earlier in the document) could well reflect the murky influence Wilders will now have over Dutch politics. But it's interesting to note that the Dutch coalition agreement - similarly to pre-election Tory pledges - include the desire to re-negotiate existing laws and powers, including possibly Treaty changes. Also here, the Dutch Coalition agreement seems to go further than its British counterpart.

All in all, the Dutch coalition agreement strikes us as more 'radical' than the Tory-Lib Dem one - who would have thought that a few months ago?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Murky" - care to elaborate?