27th Jan 2020

Policies back to member states, says Dutch Foreign Minister

Less than a month before the start of the Dutch EU presidency, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot has signalled in a keynote speech that the Dutch government is less "integrationist" than some might think.

Speaking yesterday (2 June) at the Humboldt University in Berlin, the Dutchman stated that the maximum level of EU integration accepted by citizens has been reached, and that some EU competencies should indeed be transferred back to member states.

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According to Mr Bot, there is a growing "gap" between the competencies of the EU and its legitimacy because of the rapid transfer of political power to the EU in the last thirteen years - when three major EU treaties were signed.

"[There has been] a lot of integration in a very short time. Citizens will need to have the possibility to accommodate to the integration of Europe. As far as I am concerned, this means that we will need to stop making new treaties and changes for a while in the coming years".

Legitimacy gap

Mr Bot said that the legitimacy gap of the EU already causes an "escape back to the good old nation state".

Signalling a risk of disintegration, he added: "If the gap between the transfer of competencies (to the EU) and legitimacy becomes too big, this could mean the end of European integration as we presently know it", he added.

The Dutch Minister concluded that "self restraint" should become a key goal for the EU in the near future.

Policies back to member states

But he also pleaded for the re-transfer of several competencies to the national decision-making level, such as cultural policy, parts of the Common Agricultural Policy and structural policy.

"Does Europe really have to be responsible for the financing of a road which crosses no national border at all?", Mr Bot asked.

Although the draft EU Constitution does not provide for policy changes in this direction, Mr Bot was keen to reaffirm his support to the text.

He stated that the draft Constitution takes the opinions of citizens better into account, as it includes the Charter of Fundamental Rights and it introduces the possibility of a 'people's initiative' for EU legislation.

But the treaty should not be seen as the "constitutional end station", he added.

In the future, Mr Bot said he wanted to see a strengthened role for the European Court of Justice to protect the competencies of member states against EU interference.

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