The Netherlands and EU policy areas
The major EU policy areas are also important to the Netherlands. They include security, development cooperation, finance, transport and agriculture. This is why EU policy is often a model for Dutch policy.
Foreign and Security Policy
The European Union has a Common Foreign and Security Policy. Speaking with a single voice gives the EU greater weight in the world. In principle this is also to the advantage of the Netherlands. Therefore the Netherlands does what it can to maximise its influence, so that our interests make it onto the agenda. The Netherlands has a direct interest in international stability and security, energy and resource security and the international legal order. These are also policy areas to which we can contribute specific knowledge, for example in the field of water management.
The EU is also active in military peacekeeping and reconstruction operations in war-torn countries, for example the missions in Bosnia and Kosovo and the police mission in Afghanistan.
The EU is active in development cooperation. Together, its member states constitute the world’s largest source of aid. The Netherlands believes that aid should go to the poorest people in the poorest countries. Countries capable of funding their own development should no longer be eligible for traditional aid. The Netherlands also feels that good governance and respect for human rights should be key considerations in deciding whether to provide European aid.
The EU provides humanitarian aid through the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO).
Financial and monetary policy
Most EU countries have allowed their national debt and budget deficits to rise to unsustainable levels. This poses risks to the European economy and the stability of the euro. Stricter rules and reforms must be introduced to improve the situation in the EU and prevent a new European crisis.
The Netherlands is closely involved in the European approach to solving the debt crisis. At various European meetings, the Netherlands has urged taking firm action with countries that allow their finances to get out of control. Thanks in part to our efforts the EU has introduced sanctions for countries that do not keep to their agreements, and a European Commissioner has been designated to oversee budgetary discipline in the euro countries.
The EU is expected to reach agreement on the multiannual budget for 2014-2020 by the end of 2012. The budget sets the limits for how much money the EU can spend during the period in question, and specifies where that money should go. Like the other member states and the European Parliament, the Netherlands must approve a new multiannual budget. The Netherlands is in favour of a frugal EU budget, with an emphasis on boosting growth and competitiveness.
Since the opening of its internal borders, EU citizens can live and work elsewhere in Europe. In recent years many Eastern Europeans have left their countries to come to live and work in the Netherlands. It is a challenge for the Netherlands to integrate these newcomers into Dutch society. Conversely, many Dutch people have found work elsewhere in the EU.
Open borders and fighting crime
Dutch people should feel safe in the European Union. The Netherlands therefore believes that the EU should pay attention to issues like cyber security, counterterrorism and the fight against organised crime (including human trafficking). The Netherlands would also like the EU to do more to improve data exchange and data protection.
Although there is free movement of persons within much of the EU, it is important for the member states to stick to the agreements they have made on this point. The countries where border controls for people have been abolished (known collectively as the Schengen countries) have also made joint agreements on visa policy, asylum policy and cooperation between the police and criminal justice authorities.
Bulgaria and Romania would like to become part of the Schengen Area. In assessing this issue, the Netherlands will take account of how much progress these countries have made in strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption and organised crime.
EU citizens and companies should be able to count on reliable, affordable and accessible internet, television and telephony throughout Europe. This is why the Netherlands and the EU are working to achieve a European internal digital market. For example, the EU is formulating open ICT standards that everyone in the member states can make use of. The EU is also trying to reduce the costs of international phone calls, texting and use of the internet.
Competition on the EU market promotes innovation in telecommunication networks. The EU has laid down directives in the area of market regulation and supervision. It has also set conditions concerning consumer protection and privacy.
Transport is a major sector for the EU in terms of growth and employment. Effective transport systems are important for keeping Dutch companies competitive globally. Two of Europe’s main transport hubs are located here: Schiphol Airport and the port of Rotterdam, which are used by many countries for the transport of goods.
The Netherlands also wants to tie in with economic developments at major ports beyond its borders, such as the port of Antwerp and the 'brainports' of Aachen and Liège. (A 'brainport' is a geographical region involved in exploiting and exporting knowledge, such as the region around Eindhoven.)
Open internal borders present new opportunities. For example, Dutch entrepreneurs can now hire Eastern European transport firms to ship their goods.
Education, research and evaluation of diplomas
Europe wants to cultivate itself as a knowledge-based society that can compete in the global economy. This means it is essential to have top-flight education, training and research. EU countries make their own education and research policy, though they do come together to set general goals and share good practices.
The EU also finances exchange programmes for students, lecturers and researchers. The EU promotes innovation by ensuring that people can study and work wherever they can best apply their knowledge.
For people to study and work abroad, standards of education should be comparable across the continent, and foreign diplomas should be properly evaluated. Thanks in part to member state agreements, each country has an agency for this purpose. In the Netherlands this body is the International Credential Evaluation (IDW) service.
Agriculture and rural development
Around 80% of all laws and rules pertaining to agriculture in the Netherlands are the result of agreements made by the EU member states. European agriculture policy deals with matters such as providing income support to farmers, ensuring stable and cost-effective prices for agricultural products, and promoting rural conservation.
One of the main goals of the European common fisheries policy is the prevention of overfishing.