Dutch Presidency: The stars aligned?
Most EU Council Presidencies come and go and are quickly forgotten. Sometimes however they are memorable because they conclude important and difficult dossiers, overcome long deadlocks or contribute to changing the overall direction or momentum of the EU. The upcoming Dutch Presidency in the first half of 2016 could stand out, not only because it comes at a time that the EU faces existential challenges such as the rise in Euroscepticism, the immigration crisis at the EU borders, the looming threat of Britain leaving the EU and the continuing economic crisis, with Grexit still a possibility, but also because it could be just the right Presidency at the right time. Together with the Dutch Public Affairs firm IvCB, FTI Consulting takes a closer look at the upcoming Presidency and analyses what it could mean for business.
The Ideal Presidency?
The rotating EU Council Presidencies have the role to chair Council meetings and to facilitate and drive the negotiations on the dossiers that are under discussion. The Dutch Presidency could carry out that role very successfully. As one of the EU’s founding Members, the Netherlands has already been responsible for 11 Council Presidencies. This, together with its famously efficient administration, should ensure that the six months run smoothly from an organisational point of view. The Netherlands is also particularly well prepared, having consulted many stakeholders on the key issues over the past years. Hence its ministries will be very familiar with the different positions on the key dossiers and should be able to chair negotiations effectively. It might also be an advantage that the Netherlands is a relatively small but highly respected country, placed geographically and in terms of substance between three major Member States – France, Germany and the UK – which could make it an ideal broker, a position strengthened by a culture of pragmatism and problem-solving.
Most notably, some of the most influential EU officials in key positions are Dutch. Former Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission and in charge of its better regulation agenda, is currently one of the most powerful officials in the EU. Together with fellow Dutchman Alexander Italianer, the European Commission’s Secretary-General, Timmermans has strong influence over the actual work of the Commission.