‘Transatlantic ties more important than ever’

‘Major geopolitical shifts and developments have made transatlantic ties more important than ever,’ said foreign minister Frans Timmermans last Thursday at a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

‘The developments of the past several years have shown us how fragile stability is, and that changes – even in the direction of greater democracy – can be painful and erratic,’ said the minister. ‘Above all, the events in countries and regions bordering on Russia are now making clear what new threats there are to our stability, prosperity and shared values.’

Mr Timmermans stressed the high value he places on concerted transatlantic action in the Ukraine crisis. ‘The Netherlands strives for close cooperation aimed at upholding the basic principle that borders can never be changed by means of violence or sham referendums,’ he said.

The minister is endeavouring to bring the interests of different Atlantic states into the greatest possible harmony. ‘We can achieve this by giving priority on the transatlantic agenda to security, energy security, trade and investment,’ he said, referring to the EU-US negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In his view these talks are crucial, not only economically but also geopolitically.

Given current shifts in the geopolitical balance of forces, Mr Timmermans believes it is essential to invest in relations with Asia. ‘China is gradually taking on greater responsibility for world affairs,’ he said. ‘It is an influential power, but needs Western economies to ensure its own success.’ In relations with China too, as well as in transatlantic relations, he said, it is important to ensure that as many interests as possible are shared.

Mr Timmermans stated in his speech that the possible long-term implications of the Ukraine crisis should not be overestimated. ‘Russia is making tactical moves without a clear strategy behind them,’ he said. ‘This makes the outcome unpredictable. But the rest of the world has to avoid entering a Cold War mode. We need to stay focused on issues that are key to our stability and security, such as energy supplies and nuclear disarmament.’