The Dutch have voted for the political middle ground and Europe, writes Neelie Kroes
I don’t like people who mince words. Clarity is what we are entitled to expect from political leaders. On Wednesday, it was the voters who delivered a clear and unequivocal message: the way out of the crisis leads through the political middle ground and Europe.
Down with one-liners, down with populism, goodbye xenophobia and unreliable partners, the Netherlands is on its way back to being a country to be proud of.
Wednesday was an important day for the Netherlands and the future of Europe. With the clear mandate of the people, the new cabinet is off to a constructive start.
Brussels has taken note and Dutch influence will grow now that it doesn’t have one hand tied behind its back while fighting for its position and the Dutch commitment to Europe.
The election results show a spirit of optimism, a belief that we will find a way out of this crisis as long as we work together towards realistic goals. The new cabinet will have to shape this expectation and show leadership.
Now is also a good time to reflect on what the European Union can do better or differently. I am all too aware of the sacrifices European citizens have been making in these times of crisis.
The pro-European results do not constitute a blank cheque but force us more than ever to show that Europe can make a positive contribution to the daily lives, welfare and security of citizens and businesses.
The crisis has increased the speed of European integration. More has happened in the last two years than in the fifteen preceding years.
A central, European monitoring system as part of a banking union would not even have been discussed two years ago. Now it has been widely accepted.
These are big and important strides. At the same time, we’re running the risk of alienating people. We mustn’t let that happen.
We have to right the balance and present a clear European policy. Europe will have to be more than economic growth and employment.
People must be confident that fundamental values will be safe. More integration has to go hand-in-hand with increased transparency.
I admit mistakes are made and the Commission sometimes interferes more than necessary. The EU should focus on bringing added value to Europe and refrain from doing the jobs that national and local governments are much better placed to do.
Take, for instance, the proposal to increase the number of women in top functions. I’m all for a better position for women on the labour market but the question is whether it requires enforceable EU regulation.
There are several other issues that may require a rethink of the role the EU plays. Please let me know what you think (no one-liners, please).
For the Netherlands and for Europe it is to be hoped a new cabinet will be installed sooner rather than later. Dutch ideas need to be heard and Dutch interests defended.
That is what the voters want.
Neelie Kroes is EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda
This column was published earlier in the Financieele Dagblad
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