Concerns over recent gas crisis

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
 
There is one issue not yet mentioned in the specific sections above that has been discussed quite prominently in recent months in relation to the European Union. This is the EU role regarding the gas conflict between Ukraine and Russia. With regard to this dispute, the observers sent by the EU and the effects for EU member states, like Bulgaria and Hungary, were most often referred to.[1] Although the Netherlands was not directly affected, it promised its European partners to increase its gas production by 10 percent (if proven possible technically).[2] It also offered technical expertise on how to measure gas transits. For the future, the Netherlands considers it important to improve the security of supply position of the European Union. It considers the first responsibility with regard to security of supply lies with the member states, which have to be smart with regard to keeping energy stocks, diversifying sources, and so on.




[1] Trouw: EU kan niet om gasconflict heen (EU cannot ignore gas conflict), 7 January 2009; NRC Handelsblad: EU worstelt met zijn rol in gascrisis, 8 January 2009.

The future of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and enlargement

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
 
The Netherlands considers it important to itself and the EU to be surrounded by a ring of prosperous and democratic neighbours.[1] In a national context, it promotes this goal through initiatives such as the Matra Social Transformation Programme and the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ PSI programme.[2] Stabilisation of the eastern neighbourhood is relatively high on the Dutch policy agenda. Needless to say, this cannot be explained by geographical reasons. Instead, considerations about eastern countries being potential trading partners, as well as energy transporters, provide the incentive to engage with this region.
 
The Netherlands is of the strong opinion though that stabilisation does not require a membership perspective, and considers the ENP not to be about enlargement. Rather, it provides an alternative. It believes that both the eastern ENP countries and the EU are not ready for enlargement.[3] The government is especially concerned about the public opinion. Fear for more countries joining the ‘club’ was one of the reasons why the Dutch population voted ‘No’ in the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty.[4]
 

Event-driven presidency

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
 
Prior to taking over the presidency of Slovenia, the French rhetoric and priorities found somewhat sceptical ground in the Netherlands, especially in the press. The Mediterranean Union initiative was predominantly seen as a French hobbyhorse and when the deal was signed in July, commentators were somewhat scornful on its modified ambitions. Also, Nicolas Sarkozy’s statements and actions with regard to the Olympic Games in China and the situation in Tibet, were seen as a fairly rocky start of the French Presidency. But, as with many foreign affairs matters, the presidency was mainly judged upon its crisis management skills. When the Georgian-Russian conflict presented itself that summer, the rapid and decisive action of the French Presidency was widely applauded. In the margins, criticism focused on the absence of prior consultation with all EU member states and the apparent room left in the agreement for the incomplete withdrawal of Russian forces.[1]
 

The Netherlands and the financial crisis

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
 
Dutch public opinion concerning the EU response regarding the financial crisis shows a watershed between the period before and after the agreement on the EU economic recovery plan. Before the December European Council in Brussels, the Netherlands witnessed a strong national coherent sentiment to fight this crisis, which was perceived as being a legacy from foreign origin. Prime Minister Balkenende describes this attitude as typical Dutch: “when cycling against the wind, Dutchmen will only pedal faster”.[1] In this period, concerns on the absence of the EU in the financial crisis started to mushroom.
 

US – EU relations and global challenges

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
 
The Netherlands has high and numerous expectations of new President Obama, but the most important one is that he will restore the transatlantic relationship.[1] Foreign Minister Verhagen has pointed out on several occasions that close cooperation between Europe and the US is needed in order to combat global challenges.[2] The government has indicated that it looks forward to cooperation on a broad range of issues. There are however four particular policy priorities that are mentioned most often: the financial crisis, climate change, the conflict in the Middle East, and international terrorism. These issues are also frequently referred to in the Dutch media.
 
Early initiatives by Obama with regard to these priorities have already been received positively by the Netherlands. It welcomed for instance, his decision to close Guantánamo Bay, as well as the appointment of top diplomats George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke as Special Representatives to the Middle East, and Afghanistan and Pakistan respectively.
 

Future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’