The Netherlands and developments within the European Union (EU)

As a Member State, the Netherlands helps develop EU legislation. The Netherlands is also closely involved in developments within the Union, such as economic reforms and the accession of new member states.

The EU’s core tasks

The Dutch government believes that the EU should limit itself to areas in which it adds value, such as security, or climate and the environment. Matters like pensions, taxes, culture, education and health care should be the domain of the member states themselves. There is no need for EU legislation in these areas.

EU legislation

EU member states have their own laws and regulations. At the same time there are many issues that transcend national borders, including law enforcement, agriculture, fisheries, transport and research. This is why the EU has been working for years to pass new laws and harmonise existing legislation.

Many EU laws have entered into force over the years; indeed, a significant proportion of Dutch law is ultimately a product of EU law. For example, if a Dutch company wants to transport pigs to Spain, it will have to comply with EU rules.

In the years ahead, too, new laws will be drafted, and existing laws and rules will be amended. As a member state, the Netherlands is part of this decision-making process, advocating its own standpoints and looking for allies to support its positions. The Netherlands considers every EU legislative proposal in the light of two central questions: does this issue belong on the European agenda, and are the EU’s proposals in line with Dutch interests?

Developments in the EU

Every year the Netherlands issues a report, ‘The State of the European Union’, in which the government looks back on the most important developments during the past year and looks ahead to the European agenda for the year ahead. This year’s report will cover the following themes:

  1. The EU as an actor on the world stage

    The EU has a foreign policy, trade policy and a linked defence and security policy. The European External Action Service (EEAS), a diplomatic service that represents the EU in third countries, is responsible for implementing this policy. The Netherlands is keen to strengthen the EEAS. Dutch diplomats working in the service are key players in this process.
  2. Financial and economic developments within the EU

    The EU is working to resolve the euro crisis. Economic reforms are essential for economic growth. All EU member states have to make cutbacks.
  3. Freedom, security and justice in the EU

    Like citizens of other member states, Dutch nationals can travel freely within the EU and study, work or retire in another member state. A Dutch pensioner, for example, can decide to settle permanently in Spain if he or she chooses.
    Individuals and companies must be able to count on the universal enforcement of EU laws. It is important that they feel protected. With this in mind, the Netherlands believes that the EU should focus on topics like cyber security and counterterrorism.
  4. EU enlargement and neighbouring countries

    The EU continues to grow. Accession negotiations with Croatia are now complete. Negotiations are still ongoing with Iceland, Montenegro and Türkiye. Membership is also a possibility for the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia), though as yet this remains a distant prospect. Candidate countries must incorporate EU law into their national law and enforce it accordingly. Their public administration and finances must also meet certain standards.
    The Netherlands believes enlargement is important because it makes Europe more stable and increases the size of the internal market. At the same time, the Netherlands feels that countries should not be allowed to join until they meet all conditions. This means, for example, that candidate countries must fully respect the rule of law, human rights (including the rights of minorities) and democratic principles.
    Besides the issue of enlargement, the EU is also focused on its neighbours. It has established partnerships with countries to the east (like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and in North Africa (like Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia). The EU is engaged in negotiations with these countries on trade agreements and energy. This kind of cooperation is important to the Netherlands, as it will lead to increased trade and greater stability in those countries.
  5. Internal market

    The Netherlands has benefited greatly from the opening of internal borders. Trade has increased significantly since then. But the internal market is not yet complete. Not all businesses can enjoy its advantages. There is, for example, no free market yet for services, such as IT, insurance and knowledge. So it is very much in the Netherlands’ interests that the internal market function even better. This is good for the economy and good for employment.