The refugee crisis and security, innovations and employment, finance and the eurozone, and climate and energy will be the four priority areas of the Dutch presidency of the European Union in the first half of this year, the Dutch Ambassador to Croatia, Ellen Berends, said in Zagreb on Tuesday.
We live in turbulent times and the European Union is put to the test. We are facing the challenges of dealing with the refugee crisis, security issues and the consequences of the worst economic crisis since World War Two, Berends said at a reception marking the start of the Dutch EU presidency.
There are no quick and easy solutions and no country can solve the problems on its own. The current crisis shows how much we actually need Europe. Our strength lies in unity and we must prove together that Europe is part of the solution and not part of the problem, she stressed.
The refugee crisis will continue to top the list of priorities of the European Union. A comprehensive and viable solution should be found within the European Union, but also outside of it, in cooperation with our partners, the Dutch ambassador said, adding that the EU will work on border management, readmission and asylum and will address the problem of migrant trafficking.
Speaking of security in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris last November, Berends stressed the importance of European unity. We must be united to resist attempts by radical groups to intimidate and divide us. We will have to put in place measures to combat terrorism, cross-border crime and possession of firearms, she added.
Strengthening the European economy and fighting against unemployment is the second most important priority of the Dutch presidency. Innovations and further development of the single goods and services market are key to Europe's competitiveness and growth, the ambassador said, noting that a more functional single market could bring about economic benefits of more than 651 billion euros annually, which is five per cent of the European GDP.
The proposed measures include fewer rules and a reduction of administrative burdens, the digital single market, balanced trade partnerships, labour mobility and adequate labour forces.
The Netherlands will continue working on strengthening the monetary union. The results of reforms and development of the European monetary union are becoming visible and now we are more resilient to financial and economic shocks. But the job is not done yet - we need to strengthen the banking union, create a capital market union, continue working on sound budgets and modern economies, and open a debate on a new multiannual financial framework, Berends said.
As regards the fight against climate change and energy, the starting point will be the ambitious international agreement on climate change reached in Paris last December. We will promote sustainable economic goals, such as the transition to a circular economy and energy unions, she said.
Our ambition is for the European Union to focus on the key issues, to deal with problems at the European level when necessary and at the national levels when possible. We will try to be efficient, pragmatic and creative. In short, we will be an impartial mediator in discussions, the Dutch ambassador concluded.