Prime Minister Rutte addresses European Parliament

Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg today. In an address to the plenary session, he outlined the priorities of the Dutch Presidency of the EU Council.

Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the European Parliament
Image: ©ANP / Patrick Seeger

It is a tradition for the head of government to discuss the incoming Presidency's priorities at the European Parliament. The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, greeted Mr Rutte and foreign minister Bert Koenders on arrival. After signing the guest book, Mr Rutte addressed the plenary session.

The prime minister spoke of Europe as a large, complex, shared project that can only move forward one step at a time. ‘This is the tradition in which we will fulfil our duties as Presidency holder,’ he said. ‘The tradition of cooperation that transcends what countries can achieve alone.’ Mr Rutte added that he wants the approach to be committed and determined, but also pragmatic and realistic.

The refugee crisis in Europe

In the coming months a lot of time and energy will be devoted to the refugee crisis. ‘It’s crucial that the agreements we made with Turkey late last year are carried out fast, to relieve the pressure on our external borders,’ the prime minister said. ‘It’s crucial to offer refugees a humanitarian alternative to risking their lives at sea in flimsy boats. We need safe reception in the region,’ he added.

Innovative growth and more jobs

A key goal of the Presidency is to move forward with all existing initiatives, plans and projects aimed at innovative growth and more jobs. Mr Rutte said it was important to seize the existing opportunities in the internal market. ‘It would mean millions of jobs for millions of people.’

Future of the European institutions

Mr Rutte believes there is growing consensus that the EU needs to focus on areas where cooperation is essential, such as the migration issue, the single market and cutting back the excessive regulations that restrict people and companies. The Dutch Presidency fully endorses the European Commission’s priorities and work programme, which are founded on these principles. ‘We should not reduce the debate to the question of “more or less Europe?”, said the prime minister. ‘It’s about a better Europe: a Europe that makes the best choices and achieves the most benefits for its people.’