Trilogy: Shifting EU coalitions post-Brexit
Coalition-building is the name of the game in the European Union. If a country wants to exert real influence on decision-making in the European Council and the Council of Ministers, it needs allies. This is nothing new; it has always been the case. Hence the coalition game follows historical patterns, but Brexit, a resurgence of the Franco-German axis and EU reform have triggered movement in the European coalition landscape. The Netherlands, for example, played an important role in a new alliance of seven mainly small, northern EU member states to counter a far-reaching transfer of power to Brussels. The Netherlands’ active involvement in coalition-building is in line with previous initiatives focused on Benelux partners, the Visegrad group and the Baltic and Scandinavian EU member states. On which issues are coalitions being built? How durable are they? Can new coalition patterns leave their mark on the EU? Against the background of this shift in the power relationships in Europe, three experts assess the dynamics of the European coalition game and the Dutch position in it.
A new Hanseatic League will not be enough
Britain’s departure creates a vacuum that has triggered movement on the part of the Netherlands. Minister of Finance Hoekstra is forging an alliance of eight EU countries ‘for a stronger European economy‘. Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael Institute highlights the risks of this so-called Hanseatic League 2.0.
Franco-German axis: a balancing act in which the Netherlands can play an important role
Whereas Macron is in a hurry, Merkel hits the brake. And so the EU is in the midst of an intensive, lengthy negotiating process in which the Netherlands can play an important role, argues Hanco Jürgens of the University of Amsterdam and the Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam.
Which coalitions could result from Tusk’s ‘Leaders’ Agenda’?
European Council President Donald Tusk has three issues at the top of his ‘Leaders’ Agenda’: eurozone reform, migration and the future financing of the EU. Given the major interests at stake, and in view of Brexit, this ‘Leaders’ Agenda’ raises the question of whether these three issues could give rise to more or less permanent coalitions of member states, and, if so, how they will influence the negotiations. Tom de Bruijn, a former D66 alderman in The Hague and a former senior civil servant in the field of European integration, explains the issues involved.