Contractual arrangements with EU member states not binding, says Rutte

The European Council has not yet taken a final decision on introducing contractual arrangements on reform with member states. However, Prime Minister Mark Rutte says that it has been agreed that member states and their national parliaments will continue to determine which reforms they implement. ‘The Netherlands believes it is important for countries to reform, but the contractual arrangements must not be legally binding,’ he said at the end of the first day of the European summit.

Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, will work with the European Commission and the member states to further develop the proposal. A final decision can then be taken in October 2014.

Europe’s heads of state and government also discussed cooperation in the area of defence. ‘Through smarter and more efficient use of their defence budgets, European countries can take greater advantage of benefits of scale,’ said Mr Rutte. He emphasised that there were lots of gains to be made, for instance by sharing equipment more often or through regional cooperation, like the arrangements that currently exist between the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Finally, the Council considered the agreement reached by Ecofin on important steps towards banking union, which was welcomed by Mr Rutte. The risk of problems at banks having major implications for countries will be steadily reduced and, ultimately, eliminated. ‘This means that the risk of taxpayers having to bail out failing banks in future will be reduced, if not ruled out altogether,’ the Prime Minister said.