While Uri Rosenthal sweats to get Dutch citizens out of Libya, fending off criticsm that the response was too slow, Ben Knapen delivered his vision of the European future at a guest lecture at Maastricht University, reports The Holland Bureau.
Knapen sketched an EU badly in need of a boost – placing the Netherlands at the centre of the slide in confidence in recent years, since the negative referendum result on the EU Constitution. The Dutch forget what the EU provides for them:
“The Netherlands profits more than any other European country from the single market. It accounts for 75% of our exports. After Luxembourg, we are the richest Europeans per capita. The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis worked out in 2008 that the EU is worth between €1,500 and €2,200 a year to every Dutch person. In the years ahead this ‘dividend’ is likely to be even higher.”
But the EU also has to deal with a rapidly changing world – and many European citizens who want to keep that world out. So we’ll accept the “well-educated,” and provide jobs and cheap energy for the rest. Then the fences won’t have to be too high – hopefully:
“It is not only the economy which calls for European ambition. We will also push, with other countries in Europe, for a different immigration policy, because it is clear across Europe that societies can only absorb a certain number of immigrants with poor prospects.
For too long, people have been told ‘that is the price you pay for open borders in Europe’. Understandably, they then ask themselves whether open borders create more disadvantages for them than advantages. So is it surprising that they turn their backs on Europe? That they don’t feel protected by Europe?
This government will work on measures to ensure that our external borders to the south are well patrolled and to improve the match between immigrants and our society. Well educated people who can help meet our healthcare needs, for example. And last but not least, immigrants themselves, of course, benefit from participating in our society.”
“A Europe that is accepted by our citizens has also to be a Europe that protects.”
“To limit the influx of immigrants, Europe also needs to invest in its neighbours so that they become more prosperous. Cooperation with the Mediterranean region, the Middle East, the Ukraine, Russia and the Caucasus can benefit everyone: for example, a growing market, oil and gas supplies, and solar farms in the Sahara desert.
This way we can make sure that Europe becomes a vibrant marketplace instead of a fortress surrounded by poor, angry people .”
One wonders if the people in North Africa have been defying authoritarian violence to see themselves as part of this future….
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