Europe has become too big on minor issues: Dutch foreign minister

11th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, poised to become the first vice president of the European Commission, says he aims to bring about a cultural shift in European politics because the European economy is not functioning well at the moment.

Timmermans, whose appointment was announced yesterday, told broadcaster Nos in an interview that while big companies can manage, ‘small and medium-sized firms have to deal with a lot of rules.'

'Some are local, some come from national government but some come from Europe itself,’ Timmermans said.


Europe has become too big in less important areas and has not done enough about main issues such as energy.

This will require a cultural shift, he said. ‘European institutions tend to think that if there is a problem, there needs to be rules,’ he said.

It will be a difficult job, the Dutch foreign minister said, adding that he will be able to veto ideas from other Commissioners.

However, saying no may not be the best way forward, Timmermans continued.

'It is much more effective to show a Commissioner that there are other ways which will enable them to score, and that reducing the number of rules will enable the European economy to grow,' he said.


The reaction to Timmermans’ appointment from other Dutch politicians has been mixed.

D66’s Alexander Pechtold told Trouw: ‘The Netherlands has long been awkward about things like olive oil bottles, school fruit and forest treaties and such like and now we’re reaping the rewards. This is not the super commissioner the cabinet promised parliament and the Dutch public. This job is not the "heavyweight economic post" the government wanted.'

Labour leader Diederik Samsom said ‘Timmermans will make the difference’, while prime minister Mark Rutte called him ‘the right man in the right place.’

According to CDA leader Sybrand Buma, Timmermans certainly has cause for celebration but ‘it remains to be seen how much power he will really have to put a stop to unnecessary rules and regulations’.

Gay rights

Socialist MP Harry van Bommel said he was happy Timmermans was now in a position to handle ‘relevant themes’.

‘The European Commission is not there to further the interests of the Netherlands, it is there for the whole of Europe. This is about the issues Timmermans can address, such as human rights. (..) He can also stand up for gay rights in Eastern European countries and the position of the Roma,’ Van Bommel said.

‘The relationship with European institutions is another important element because the lobby circuit is part of that and we need to curb it. Timmermans is well-placed to do that.’

Harm Beertema of the anti-European PVV told RTL his party is not happy about Timmermans’ new job. ‘We want less EU and we have far too many Euro commissioners as it is. Every euro that is being spent in Europe is one too many, and Timmermans will now be spending too. That is money that should go towards lightening the load at home,’ Beertema told RTL.



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