Groundbreaking EU initiative by Spain and the Netherlands

by Lorraine Williamson
Groundbreaking EU initiative

MADRID – Eight months ago, Spain and the Netherlands were still diametrically opposed to each other in the fight over European funds. Now the countries are jointly advocating partial abolition of the right of veto within the EU in a groundbreaking initiative. 

Prime Ministers, Sánchez and Rutte, put forward the proposal to partially replace the right of veto by a majority decision. With the aim of strengthening the EU, the letter was sent to European Union President, Charles Michel on Wednesday. 

Sánchez and Rutte put forward 13 points to strengthen the EU’s strategic clout after the pandemic. They both concluded that the right of veto limits this power. The Netherlands has been arguing for years to abolish the right of veto in certain areas. These include areas such as human rights and the rule of law.  

Groundbreaking EU initiative

Prime Ministers Pedro Sánchez and Mark Rutte sent the working document on Wednesday. It was issued to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council, George Michel, and the rotating President of the Union, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. The initiative is groundbreaking. Just eight months ago there were still harsh confrontations within the EU between Spain, Italy and Portugal and the Dutch government. Confrontations over the amount and structure of the European funds to tackle the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic. The fact that Rutte is now joining forces with Spain is remarkable.  

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‘Club Med’ 

In July 2020, the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte took the lead on behalf of the self-proclaimed ‘frugal’ countries of Northern and Central Europe.  He opposed a relaxation of the austerity rules, and even threatened to veto the funds. However, Rutte eventually backed down under German pressure. Sánchez and Rutte are putting the tensions of eight months ago behind them.  And furthermore, they are launching this proposal to strengthen the Union.  

Not everything is ‘Club Med’, the ironic name given to the common southern European countries, as long as they can flourish. 

Themes 

Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia has seen the working document of the Spanish-Dutch proposal. It lists 13 different themes in which both governments consider it necessary to increase the strategic strength of the European Union. For example, the common market, digital transformation, technological innovation, health, the environment and energy. They want to develop strong competition rules at European level. This will, in turn counter the dominance of the digital giants and stricter controls on investments from outside the EU.  Especially in the ‘sensitive’ sectors. 

They also call for control of state aid that distorts fair competition.  And, additionally for the reduction of strategic dependence on raw materials and essential components. Other themes are the promotion of European microprocessor production, and of defence, better coordination of healthcare, regulation of crypto-currency markets and the possibility of issuing the digital euro. They want to create cooperation mechanisms to respond more quickly to international conflicts. But above all, they argue that for more subjects, majority voting can replace the right of veto. 

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