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European Integration

The Dutch have the reputation of being enthusiastic subscribers to the ideal of an integrated Europe. The practice of European integration, however, is not always as wholeheartedly embraced: the Netherlands has been one of the slowest member states in implementing measures under the single market. But Europe is not an issue on the political agenda: no major political party questions EC membership, and surveys consistently show higher than average popular support for European unification in the Netherlands. From the Dutch point of view the EC has fulfilled its two main promises. It has been almost too successful in cementing Germany not only militarily (through NATO) but also economically into Western alliances, and the Dutch are now wary of a French—German directorate within the Community. The second promise, of fostering Dutch economic growth by demolishing obstacles to trade (two-thirds of Dutch industrial exports is to other member states), has also been a success, and the Netherlands has, until 1992, always been a net earner from the EC.

Interestingly enough, the Dutch had to overcome initial hesitations before developing their pro-Europe attitude. When the European Coal and Steel Community was set up, the Dutch objected to a supranational authority, whereas supranationality was later to become one of the characteristic Dutch desires in Brussels. Another source of hesitation was even more curious: fear (by all major parties except theKVP), of a papist Europe. This fear even had an impact on the composition of the 1952-6 Cabinet. In Chapter 2 we noted that in 1952 the portfolio of Foreign Affairs fell to theKVP, but that the other parties balked at the prospect of all the Foreign Secretaries in the EC being Catholics. As a compromise a non-partisan Minister of Foreign Affairs, the banker Beyen, was appointed, in addition to whom the Catholic diplomat Joseph Luns became minister without portfolio, with the right to call himself Foreign Secretary when abroad. When asked why the Netherlands had two Ministers of Foreign Affairs, his stock reply was that, the Netherlands being such a small country, the rest of the world was too large an area to be covered by just one minister. Ironically, it was the Catholic Luns who turned out to be a staunch Atlanticist, and it was Beyen who became one of the founding fathers of the Community. The latter succeeded, together with Belgium\'s Foreign Secretary, Spaak, in laying the foundations of the EC Treaty after attempts at a European Defence Community and a European Political Community had foundered in 1954.

Once these initial hesitations were overcome, two important obstacles to European integration remained: a fear of domination by one or more of the larger member states, and an emphasis on Atlantic cooperation in the areas of defence and foreign policy. Because of these reservations it has been argued that the Dutch Foreign Office sought to model \'Europe as a greater Holland\'. The fear of a directorate of larger countries, France, or a Franco-German coalition, made the Dutch into proponents of widening the Community by including more countries, but it was primarily translated into proposals to strengthen the EC\'s supranational institutions, the Commission and the European Parliament.

Countries such as the Netherlands, it is felt, are too small to exert influence in an intergovernmental power game. Supranational bodies, on the other hand, are likely to pursue pan-European interests, and such interests are deemed more compatible with Dutch interests than are specific French or German interests. Thus supranationalism became a preoccupation of the Dutch within Europe, from the near unanimous motion in the Second Chamber to transfer powers to supranationalist institutions in 1948, to the conflict in 1991 between the Netherlands as temporary chairman of the EC and the British government about supranationalist tendencies in a Dutch draft for the Maastricht treaty. The Dutch insistence, since 1964, on a directly elected European Parliament with real powers should also be interpreted in this light.

Officially, the Dutch have always worried about the \'European democratic deficit\': decision-making increasingly shifts to Brussels, where it is outside the purview of national parliaments. This gap in democratic accountability should be filled by a competent European Parliament. The introduction of direct elections to the European Parliament, first held in 1979, was celebrated as a Dutch victory for democracy. Turnout for these elections was low everywhere, but it was particularly disappointing in the Netherlands. This has not helped much in giving the supranational Parliament democratic legitimacy, but the low turnout has only strengthened the resolve of the Dutch government to push for more powers for the European Parliament, claiming that the low turnout is caused by a reluctance to vote for a third-rate legislature. It is difficult- to ascertain to what degree this concern for European democracy is real, or whether it merely serves as a flag of convenience under which to strengthen the supranational character of the Community in defence of Dutch national interests.

Whatever explanation is the correct one, it should be emphasized that the campaign for supranationalism has always taken second place to the Atlantic orientation in Dutch European policy. It is in the interest of Dutch trade that the Netherlands has always attempted to prevent the development of a \'fortress Europe\' by welcoming the accession of new member states, and by objecting to European protectionism. Yet, within that framework, the Atlantic orientation has always been given precedence. Dutch Atlanticism is evidenced by a reluctance to extend European cooperation to defence and foreign policy, and by its support of British applications for membership of the Community. The Dutch attitude is epitomised by Foreign Secretary Luns\'s finest hour: his \'no\' to De Gaulle\'s aspirations in 1961-2. In 1960 the French President announced his proposals for a European Political Union, which included taking over some of NATO\'s military responsibilities, and in which European institutions would be firmly controlled by intergovernmental bodies. The circumstance that France was the only nuclear power within the Europe of the original six member states, and De Gaulle\'s suggestion that the new political union\'s secretariat be located in Paris, provided sufficient fuel for fear of a Gaullist Europe. This anxiety, the lack of supranational elements in the proposal, and the challenge to America\'s leadership of the Alliance by the formation of a French-led European defence bloc within NATO, all ran counter to established Dutch foreign policy precepts. Irritation over the plans mounted when De Gaulle secured German (and Italian) support on the eve of the 1961 meeting where the proposals were to be discussed. All other member states, except the Netherlands, agreed to underwrite the French plans. Much to the surprise of Europe\'s two most venerable statesmen, De Gaulle and Adenauer, their proposal was thwarted by a Minister of Foreign Affairs (not even a head of state or government) from a small country. Luns demanded that the political union should not affect NATO, and that it-should develop supranational institutions. He was willing to drop these conditions, however, provided that the UK was included.