Sunday

18th Apr 2021

Netherlands keen to curb EU powers in new treaty

  • Mr Balkenende: 62 percent of Dutch voters said no to the constitution two years ago (Photo: Wikipedia)

Dutch prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende has set out his country's position on the new EU treaty, saying it should drop the word "constitution", give a bigger say to national parliaments, set clear limits to EU powers and more precise enlargement criteria.

"We must come up with a mutually acceptable solution that does justice to the concerns which emerged following the Dutch and French referenda," the Dutch leader said in the European Parliament on Wednesday (23 May), referring to the rejection of the old constitution by Dutch and French voters in 2005.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Hague – along with London, Warsaw and Prague – is being labelled as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to salvaging the original constitution treaty, with Mr Balkenende's speech to MEPs reaffirming the idea that Dutch voters would only accept a scaled-down treaty that does not create the image of an EU super-state.

The prime minister sketched out four red lines for the Netherlands on the basis of popular Dutch concerns. He agreed the EU bloc should amend its existing treaties, but said the word "constitution" must go, after it became a major factor in the Dutch "nee" on deeper EU integration.

"The Netherlands is in favour of a more traditional document, in the same vein as the treaties of Amsterdam or Nice," he told MEPs.

On top of the name change, the Hague also wants to alter the substance of the old constitution, so that the new text has stronger limitation on qualified majority voting. The old constitution's extension of qualified majority to new areas was designed to make the bloc more efficient in its decision-making.

"We must recognise that countries are afraid to relinquish their vetoes, afraid that the EU will extend its competences by stealth," Mr Balkenende said.

To further increase domestic control over the EU machinery, the prime minister advocated that national parliaments should have a bigger say when it comes to Brussels' proposals. "If a majority of national parliaments are opposed to a given proposal, there must be consequences," he said.

The fourth Dutch red line - concerning stricter enlargement criteria in the new treaty - also addresses popular Dutch dissatisfaction over the prospect of further extending the EU's borders, with Turkey and seven Western Balkan states all in the queue to get in.

"After the latest round we have to realise that the public needs time to get used to the EU in its new form. Things have changed too quicky for some people's taste," Mr Balkenende said, adding "we must allow time for a sense of solidarity to grow."

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us