Sunday 18 August 2019

Europe must wake up to new realities, set priorities, says Dutch minister

Photo: Rijksoverheid

The EU needs to face up to the fact that part of its population wants to break away and set new priorities for the 21st century, Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a speech in Berlin.

‘The bitter reality is that we have an EU which part of the population still want to leave,’ Hoekstra said on Tuesday, in his first major international speech at Berlin’s Humboldt University.

At the same time, the Dutch minister said, ‘we must cherish Europe’s post war achievements… so much freedom, such enduring freedom, so much prosperity.’

‘If we want to keep what we have, we must build on a Europe which is resilient and prosperous… A 21st century Europe means giving a fundamental revision of our priorities.’

Hoekstra, who is seen as a fiscal hawk, said countries which do not meet EU targets and cherry pick which rules to comply with ‘have no right to European money’.

Politicians, he said, should take the long-term interests of their citizens into account, even if that means taking a more difficult road. ‘We have to opt for reform, for reducing debt and investing rather than consumption,’ he said.

In addition, more money should be spend on security the EU’s outer borders, and EU countries should work together on climate change and on a European tax on flying, the finance minister said.

The EU, he said, must also stop being naive and stand up to China and Russia as the biggest trading block in the world. Brexit, he said, is a victory for Moscow and Beijing.


Earlier Hoekstra told the Financial Times that Europe needs to ‘look in the mirror’ and work out why it is failing to attract the most prosperous countries to play a full part in the union.

It is a ‘catastrophe’ that countries like Norway do not want to join, that Britain is leaving and that Denmark has opted out of projects like the euro, he told the paper.

‘If you lack the ability to attract [those countries] and you lose the UK, then it is time to look in the mirror,’ Hoekstra told the paper.

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