Monday 20 September 2021

‘I’m not such a romantic,’ Dutch PM says of Juncker’s state of the union speech

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has reacted mildly to Wednesday’s speech by European Commission chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, saying there are ‘good things’ but also ‘things I like less’.

In particular, Rutte said he is positive about the short-term plans involving trade and the position of workers from Eastern Europe. ‘I am also pleased he is critical about the eurozone budget and the eurozone parliament,’ Rutte said.

But he is less keen on Juncker’s wish to widen the passport-free Schengen zone. ‘Not at the moment,’ he is quoted as saying in the Telegraaf. ‘We oppose this. There are too many concerns about border controls and corruption.’

During his state of the union speech, Juncker said the ‘wind is back in Europe’s sails’, following the Brexit vote and Marine Le Pen’s defeat in the French elections.  ‘Juncker is a romantic,’ Rutte is quoted as saying by the Financial Times. ‘I am more of a: when you have visions, go see a doctor kind of guy.’

The position of the Netherlands within the EU is a crucial part of the ongoing cabinet negotiations. The Liberal democratic party D66 is keen to see greater European integration, unlike ChristenUnie and the CDA.

ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers said Juncker’s plans do not dovetail with his own party’s election manifesto. Asked if he considered Juncker’s ideas to be bad, he said: ‘Yes, you can deduce that.’

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