Prime minister Mark Rutte has outlined his views on the future facing Europe at a meeting of the European parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
In the speech Rutte, who has been tipped as a possible successor to EU president Donald Tusk, outlined what he saw as the challenges facing Europe and the need for Europe to make choices.
‘Recent developments make it very clear that we cannot take our way of life, our way of doing business or our way of conducting international relations for granted,’ he said.
‘We must deal with the fact that Russia has chosen to distance itself from its neighbours in the West,’ Rutte said. In addition, the conflict in Syria and ‘arc of instability around Europe’ need to be dealt with, the prime minister told MEPs.
‘The multilateral order is being challenged in a way that we haven’t seen in decades, and the geopolitical balance of power is shifting,’ he said.
The NRC described the speech as the ‘most pro-Europe made by Rutte to date’, despite his renewed calls for constraint.
‘More and more is not the answer to the problems people have in their daily lives,’ Rutte said. ‘For some, ever closer union is still a goal in itself. Not for me. ’Unity’ and ‘ever closer union’ are not the same.’
‘You don’t achieve unity by simply doing more in more areas. You achieve it by doing things really well in a few important areas,’ Rutte said. ‘The EU needs to under-promise and over-deliver. Because focusing on core tasks will promote the Union’s effectiveness, strength and identity.’
The areas where Europe needs to focus include the single market and international trade policy, EMU and the euro, a common migration policy and joint control of the EU’s external borders and climate policy, which is by definition a cross border issue, Rutte said.
He went on to propose increasing the current target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 55%, to MEPs applause.
Rutte also restated the Netherlands objection to paying more towards the EU budget. ‘The Netherlands is willing to pay its share, but countries with a comparable level of prosperity must make a comparable net contribution per capita,‘ he said.