Europe a Priority!

February 22, 2007 - nr.52

Chapter VII


The AIV did not wish – nor would it have been able – to provide a blueprint of the future
European Union in this report. The European integration process is too fluid and too
diverse for this purpose, both conceptually and in terms of the Union’s tasks. It
appears to be impossible to reconcile national identity with mounting globalisation. The
balance of power in Europe is changing, the Netherlands is no longer the ‘smallest of
the large countries’ and public opinion in the Netherlands is rarely motivated by
fascinating European issues, despite the fact that the future of the continent, and
therefore of the Netherlands, is at stake. This advisory report is therefore more like an
interim report: no rehashing of old arguments, because there is no time for that, but a
call to action in the face of coming developments, regarding which the Netherlands will
have to adopt a position one way or another. In doing so, it must focus on its citizens:
on understanding their ambitions, on translating these ambitions into European policy
via the processes of participation and politicisation, on strengthening the link between
parliament and government in the European integration process and on politicising
Europe more effectively by establishing truly European political parties and making the
Union more democratic. In this context, the AIV makes the following recommendations.
From chapter II: Healthy finances
Recommendation 1
The AIV believes that the transfer of resources to the European Union should be
fundamentally separate from national budgets. Only then will it be possible to discuss
the implementation of EU policy, including the allocation of resources, without
reference to constantly shifting interests regarding the revenue side of the EU budget.
Recommendation 2
The European Council should instruct an authoritative panel of experts from the
member states to come up with an appropriate own resources system for the
European Union that is independent of national budgets. This should take place as
soon as possible, namely before 2008, when the aforementioned financial review will
be on the Council’s agenda.
From chapter III: Citizens
- on structure of governance (section III.3):
Recommendation 3
The structure of governance needs to be streamlined to increase the Union’s
effectiveness. Only then will the aforementioned actions have any chance of success.
New policy initiatives and the improvement of the Union’s structure should therefore
go hand in hand.
- on enlargement (section III.3):
Recommendation 4
The AIV notes that, in view of the diversity of the member states aspiring to EU
membership, the possibility of different forms of membership is being rejected too
easily and too soon. A debate on this issue would be a good complement to the
European Neighbourhood Policy, which currently rejects all forms of membership.
- on involving citizens (section III.4):
Recommendation 5
The debate on the future of Europe should be much more politicised than it is at
present. This applies not only to the introduction by parliament of the subsidiarity test
but also to making the future direction and development of European integration a
central feature of the forthcoming government programme.
From chapter IV: Priorities in existing policies
- on the internal market and socioeconomic values (section IV.2):
Recommendation 6
In the AIV’s view, the European Union should promote widely supported values such as
peace, security, freedom and democracy more explicitly in its policies and explain the
need for a Social Europe.
Recommendation 7
Given the importance of economic growth, the AIV advises the government to mount a
targeted publicity campaign to highlight the economic significance of further services
- on Economic and Monetary Union (section IV.3):
Recommendation 8
The AIV points out the importance of supporting the common currency by means of
effective policies to supplement the completion of the internal market.
- on external competitiveness (section IV.4):
Recommendation 9
The AIV believes that further European economic integration, including the further
integration of the new member states in the European Union, is essential to meet the
challenges of globalisation.
Recommendation 10
The AIV proposes that the government facilitate the future publication of lists
comparing the member states’ performance in relation to the Lisbon objectives.
Recommendation 11
With regard to trade policy, the AIV advises the government to continue focusing
attention on strengthening the WTO’s multilateral legal system and to strictly ensure
that any bilateral or regional accords concluded by the European Union are
compatible with WTO rules.
Recommendation 12
The AIV advises the government to better prepare Dutch citizens for the inevitable and
often far-reaching changes caused by globalisation.
From chapter V: New policy priorities
- on asylum and immigration policy (section V.1):

Recommendation 13
The Dutch government should push for more EU regulatory powers regarding the
admission of aliens, leading to a comprehensive Community asylum and immigration
policy. In the opinion of the AIV, a potentially successful European approach should
include the establishment of a European asylum agency, a consultation mechanism for
the proposed legalisation of illegal immigrants, measures to make it unattractive at
European level to employ illegal immigrants and the communitarisation of deportation
Recommendation 14
In the AIV’s opinion, the Dutch government has every reason to push for an asylum
and immigration policy that is based partly on inclusion instead of one that focuses
entirely on exclusion. The government should examine how such a policy ought to be
- on internal and external security policy (section V.2):
Recommendation 15
The AIV argues that the government should endeavour to increase the number of parties
to agreements like the Prüm Convention and the Treaty of Enschede, so that they can be
brought under the provision on closer cooperation in the Treaty of Nice. This means that
the AIV maintains its position that the government should keep striving to transform the
consensus achieved on the issue of internal and external security policy into a treatybased
regime as soon as possible.
- on energy policy (section V.3):
Recommendation 16
The AIV advocates that the Netherlands devote all its efforts to building an EU-wide
consensus, obviously in close cooperation with the business sector, on the main
features of a harmonised and coordinated energy policy, in which all factors – the
environment, conservation, sustainability, security of supply and improving the
functioning of the internal market – are considered together as part of an integrated
From chapter VI: Effectiveness
- on times at which treaty amendments are necessary (section VI.2):

Recommendation 17
The AIV advises the government not to put off formulating a position on treaty
amendments, despite the fact that little progress can be achieved on key institutional
issues before the French presidential elections in 2007. At the same time, it is
precisely the Netherlands and France that should be expected to propose alternative
solutions to the impasse that has arisen. These proposals should play a role in the
debate on the continuation of the reform process that will develop among the member
states following the end of the period of reflection in 2007. The political parties should
treat the necessary treaty amendments as an important issue in the European
- on returning to the Laeken Declaration (section VI.3):
Recommendation 18
The Netherlands must be willing to discuss a revision of the EC and EU Treaties on the
basis of the themes from the Laeken Declaration referred to above.
- on priority improvements (section VI.4):
Recommendation 19
Grant the European Parliament codecision powers in respect of all majority decisions
that are not yet subject to the codecision procedure, such as in the field of agricultural
Recommendation 20
Place the European Parliament on an equal footing with the Council in the budgetary
procedure; abolish the distinction between ‘compulsory’ and ‘non-compulsory’
Recommendation 21
In addition, strengthen the role of national parliaments and introduce the subsidiarity
and proportionality tests they are to perform.
Recommendation 22
Expand the number of cases in which decisions can be adopted by qualified majority
Recommendation 23
Make more use of Interinstitutional Agreements to enable the European Union to act
more effectively without the need for formal treaty amendments, for example on
budgetary matters or when withholding aid in lengthy controversial cases.
Recommendation 24
Establish the post of Union Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Recommendation 25
Replace the current requirement for a triple qualified majority in the European Council
and the Council with a requirement for a double majority.
Recommendation 26
Transfer Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters (PJCC) to the first pillar.
Recommendation 27
Apply the passerelle clause in the third pillar as a serious option for improving
decision-making procedures in the policy fields of asylum and immigration and internal
and external security.
Recommendation 28
Improve the rules governing enhanced cooperation by dropping the unanimity
Recommendation 29
The AIV recommends establishing a specific legal basis in the treaties for developing a
European energy policy.
- on other improvements (section VI.5):
Recommendation 30
The AIV advises the government to use the subsidiarity test only to determine whether
there is a desire (or need) for EU action, what scope remains for national autonomy
and whether the proposed provisions will solve problems and be sufficiently
sustainable (i.e. to evaluate expediency, subsidiarity and proportionality).
Recommendation 31
he AIV recommends establishing a citizens’ initiative, which should be interpreted as
sending a powerful message to the Commission even if it is not formally enshrined in
the treaties.
Recommendation 32
The AIV warns against coordination that cannot be enforced. Programming, notifying
or consulting with others on policy intentions, and naming and shaming are vital for
imbuing important projects with a certain amount of credibility.
Recommendation 33
The AIV recommends introducing an independent test, along the lines of the model
developed by the Dutch Administrative Burden Advisory Board, to assess the
administrative burdens resulting from the Commission’s legislative
Advice request

The Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) prepared this advisory report on its
own initiative. The aim is to make a tangible contribution to the formulation of Dutch
EU policy following the parliamentary elections on 22 November 2006. In particular,
the AIV wishes to contribute to the debate on the political prioritisation of the European
Union’s tasks and the necessary reform of the European institutions, in order to
enable the Union to properly perform the tasks it has been set.

The AIV emphasises that the present advisory report should be seen as a follow-up to
the advisory letter The European Union and its relations with Dutch citizens, which was
published on 13 December 2005 (Advisory letter no 10) .Whereas the key question in
the advisory letter was how to improve citizens’ involvement in and sense of solidarity
with the European Union, the present report focuses chiefly on what the European Union
needs to do and what instruments it needs for this purpose.
In most cases, this will require amendments to the Treaty of Nice. Experience teaches
that these will take a long time to achieve. The AIV therefore also provides a number of
guidelines for measures that could improve the current situation in advance of a
revision of the treaty.
The above discussion leads to the following questions:
    1. What improvements are needed with regard to EU funding?
    2. What do Dutch citizens expect from the European Union?
    3. What tasks should the European Union take on as a matter of priority in the
        interests of the Netherlands and with the support of the Dutch population?
    4. Do existing instruments enable the European Union to perform these tasks
    a. What treaty amendments would increase the European Union’s effectiveness
        and the public support it receives? Which amendments should be given priority
        so that they can enter into force in 2009 (the year of the next European
        elections and the formation of a new European Commission)?
    b. What improvements can be implemented now in advance of any treaty
Government reactions

To the Chair of the                                                                   European Integration Department

Permanent Committee on European Affairs                                Bezuidenhoutseweg 67

Binnenhof 4                                                                             P.O. Box 20061

The Hague                                                                              2500 EB The Hague



Date:      1 April 2008

Subject:  advisory report: Europe: a priority!        



Dear Mr Chairman,


In reply to your letter of 7 March 2008, we would like to inform you of the reasons why the government has not yet responded to the Advisory Council on International Affairs’ (AIV) report no. 52, entitled Europe: a priority!, which was published in November 2006.


The report was drawn up on the Council’s own initiative, and thus gave no cause for a government response. The previous government had decided not to publish policy intentions relating to the EU treaty amendment for the duration of the extended period of reflection agreed by the European Council. It was not until 19 March 2007 that the present government adopted a stance on the treaty amendment in a letter to the House of Representatives and the Senate. A separate response to the AIV report was no longer appropriate.


Nonetheless, the government took account of the AIV report as well as other recommendations and publications in determining its stance. The policy identified by the AIV as a priority for the EU, including energy policy and asylum and migration policy, occupied a central place in the government’s stance. This was also the case in relation to strengthening the Union’s democratic legitimacy and effectiveness, as urged by the AIV. What is more, in calling for the early involvement of national parliaments in relation to the subsidiarity test, the AIV endorsed the government’s own view.


Yours faithfully,




Maxime Verhagen                                                        Frans Timmermans

Minister of Foreign Affairs                                             Minister for European Affairs 

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