By Cees Loggen, Regional Minister of European Affairs, Province of Noord-Holland
The debate about the European Union is being conducted somewhat superficially in the Netherlands. It usually involves the question about whether the Netherlands, as a net contributor, is receiving enough in return for the roughly 4 billion euro annual difference between the amount it pays and the amount it receives.
Let me take stock of the facts here. First of all, Europe provides us with access to the largest commercial market in the world: the European Union. We trade with it and the majority of our investments are made there. This creates a tremendous amount of jobs.
Maybe even more important is that the European Union has brought us peace on this continent for nearly seventy years. the longest consecutive period of peace we have ever had. And this is apart from the fact that we have great prospects for the future too.
We receive nothing but benefits from a Europe that develops further integration, strengthens collaboration among its nations, and signs profitable trade agreements.
No way back
We can only meaningfully tackle the immense challenges on this continent, such as the climate problem and the energy transition, in a European context. We cannot afford to go backwards given the many problems that confront Europe, in a world that has become more unstable.
There is a new Russian ‘czar’ at the head of an authoritarian regime at the EU’s eastern frontier Union, who does not shy away from getting involved in the internal, domestic conflicts of bordering countries. Turkey is also heading in the same direction.
In the west, it is the UK which is exceptionally unwise in detaching itself from the Union through the Brexit, while the US is just about ‘going it alone’.
Europe also has a problem at its southern frontier, where countless migrants are venturing across the Mediterranean for a prospectless application for asylum status.
We can only solve this problem by means of a common European policy.
We have enjoyed nearly 70 years of prosperity, freedom and safety for those 4 billion euros every year. Therefore, to put it briefly, we should focus a lot more on the advantages the European Union has given us. The alternative is an unstable Europe.
If we, as a ‘united European family’, do not come to an agreement together, what situation will occur without our common ties? It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to get the idea.
If you weigh up all the pros and cons, there is only one way to go with Europe: forward.
I will not offer an opinion on whether this should be a multi speed Europe, a federal Europe or some other form. But in any case, we must not go back to a Europe of separate nations who have nothing in common, other than being on the same continent.
As the coordinating holder of the Europe portfolio in the province of Noord-Holland, I would like to call on the parties negotiating in The Hague to form a new Dutch government to come up with a positive European section in the coalition agreement, giving attention to the considerations I just mentioned. And in which Europe is not only regarded as a debit entry, but as an investment in our united future.