The Netherlands and Europe: Between Destiny and Choice
The Dutch and the Americans: Old Friends and Persistent Allies
Peter C. Potman,
Political Counselor, Royal Netherlands Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Peter Potman discussed recent trends in the Netherlands’ relationship with Europe and the European Union. The perspective of the Netherlands’ policy on the European Union was sharply altered by the referendum of June 1, 2005, on the Treaty on a European Constitution. Many different factors contributed to the “No” vote.
Mr. Potman addressed Dutch dissatisfaction with the speed and degree of integration, enlargement, financial contributions and the glut of regulations. Many citizens voted “No” from a sense that they had too little say in decision-making. European integration,
however, makes an essential contribution to the peace, liberty, security and prosperity that the Dutch enjoy today.
Looking at the challenges the Dutch shall face in the future, he affirmed that the EU’s role will not decline. Although the Netherlands government regrets the result of the referendum, it also sees it as support for the newly adopted policy of assessing the merits of fresh European proposals more carefully: taking the principle of subsidiarity - do nationally what you can and internationally what you have to - as its point of departure.
He also discussed national debates about the integration of foreigners, the way the Dutch deal with the terrorist threat and the country’s social policies against this background.
Included in this was discussion of recent developments in the Netherlands with respect to the integration of the Muslim minority.
Mr. Potman also delved into the relationship between the Netherlands and the U.S., which has been a consistent story of friends and allies. This includes the Dutch Republic becoming the first nation to salute the young United States, through the American role in liberating the Dutch from Nazi Germany and the rebuilding of Europe to the present day,
and Dutch assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Dutch soldiers stood by the U.S. in building up the new Iraq and fight side by side with American troops in the mountains of Afghanistan in the fight against international terrorism.
The Netherlands is the third-largest investor in the U.S. overall. In Ohio, the Dutch are among the biggest foreign investors (5th largest, $2.2 billion), with some 70 affiliates of Dutch companies providing some 16,000 jobs; and the Netherlands is one of the top export markets for products from Ohio ($480 million).