AMSTERDAM: The Netherlands has a responsibility to lead after Brexit and worries that Germany is putting too much faith in “more Europe”, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said. In an interview with the Sunday morning talk show Buitenhof, the liberal party leader pointed out that he had recently held summits with other Benelux nations, the Balts, Central Europeans and Nordics. Unusually, he took a stab at Germany, where the next government is expected to be more integrationist.
“Of course, Germany can transfer more money to Europe,” Rutte said in jest. “I have no objection to that. We take a different view.”
Small EU countries fear being overshadowed by France, Germany, Italy and Spain when the United Kingdom leaves in 2019. The Big Four account for 75 percent of the European population and generally share the view that problems in Europe require pan-European solutions.
As I reported last year, the Dutch, being the largest of the small nations, see a role for themselves as champions of free trade and the single market as opposed to protectionism and a European “social union”.
French president Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for eurozone reform have added urgency to Rutte’s task. Dutch leaders are usually reluctant to challenge Berlin, given the Netherlands’ economic dependence on Germany. The country exports more to Germany alone than to Britain, France and Italy combined.