Starting on 1 January, the Netherlands has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for the next six months. It also marks the launch of a new Trio with Slovakia and Malta. The three countries have agreed on a joint presidency programme which will serve as a basis for the next year and a half.
The EU is at a turning point, facing crucial challenges with important dossiers coming up such as the Digital Single Market Strategy, the Circular Economy Package and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to name just a few. One of the main challenges will be to sustain the current positive trend in Europe’s economic recovery. With five Council meetings of the Economic and Financial Ministers scheduled during the Presidency, it will definitely be high on the agenda. But what will the Presidency really be able to achieve?
Encouraging growth through the Capital Markets Union (CMU)
One of The Hague’s top priorities is to move forward on the remaining elements of the CMU, at the center of Juncker’s investment plan focused on making the financial system more resilient. The European Commission presented its Action Plan last year and important and difficult discussions with the European Parliament are foreseen during the Presidency. In addition to that, in order to boost the economy and job creation, there will be an emphasis on reforms as well as on the consolidation of the Internal Market.
Deepening the Internal Market
According to the Presidency programme, the EU “has lost sight of its role as an innovator and creator of jobs in Europe […]. Its key strength in that respect is the Single Market which […] unites Member States”. The Dutch particularly welcome the Single Market Strategy on goods and services presented in October last year. The Dutch will focus on making the best possible use of the current European Monetary Union framework with an emphasis on the Banking Union and national reforms to open up markets.
The Banking Union: more harmonization needed
The Netherlands want to ensure that the required measures to complete the Banking Union are developed. In this context, they will include the Commission’s proposal for a European Deposit Insurance Scheme on its agenda and will need to facilitate a common position within the Council. This is a first step towards the establishment of a European Deposit Guarantee Scheme, although it should be preceded by further harmonization of banking regulations.
The right tools in hand for significant dossiers
The Presidency seems to be heading in the right direction with dossiers that will definitely impact future European economic policy. In this context, we can point out that Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, currently Head of the Eurogroup, will chair the Economic and Financial Ministers Council meetings during the Presidency, which may help to push their priorities in the financial sector forward. But The Hague should make sure to take a holistic approach to EU policy-making so that legislation designed to bring back market and investors’ confidence in the short-term does not conflict with policy designed to restore long-term financial stability. All in all, more than six months will be necessary to clearly evaluate the results of this Presidency.