‘Resolving debt crisis must not lead to divided Europe’

Resolving the debt crisis must not lead to a divided EU internal market. This is what the Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation, Ben Knapen, said today in Copenhagen, where he met with his Danish counterparts Nicolai Wammen (European Affairs) and Christian Friis Bach (Development Cooperation). Denmark will hold the EU Presidency in the first half of 2012.

The two European affairs ministers discussed among other things progress in drafting the new intergovernmental agreement as decided at the European Council on 9 December. ‘All 27 member states are involved in this process, including the United Kingdom,’ Mr Knapen said ‘This is a positive development, and one that is good for the Netherlands and the EU. It is important that the treaty is legally watertight and enforceable, and provides for strong leadership by the Commission.’

Budget austerity
Mr Knapen and Mr Wammen also discussed the new EU multi-annual budget for 2014-2020. During its Presidency, Denmark will lead budget negotiations in the first half of 2012. The Netherlands considers the proposed budget too high. The Dutch government is aiming for a budget that is frugal, effective and future-proof and that divides the burden fairly between member states. This also requires substantially lower Dutch payments to the EU.

The new multi-annual budget should focus on making the EU more competitive and innovative, and strengthening cooperation on justice, migration and asylum policy. The Netherlands also supports a more strongly results-driven cohesion policy and a more sustainable agriculture policy.

Water projects
Mr Knapen and Danish development minister Bach are taking the lead in striving for better coordination of development efforts between EU member states and with the European Commission. Today they took concrete steps towards a better division of tasks between the Netherlands and Denmark. For example, as the Netherlands steps up its development relationship with Benin, it will take over various Danish water projects there.

Finally, Mr Knapen urged that improved respect for human rights and good governance be made stricter preconditions for budget support.

Denmark will hold the rotating EU Presidency for six months starting on 1 January 2012. The Presidency will then be taken over by Cyprus.