Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant told the European Parliament that the priority of the Netherlands Presidency of the European Union should be to promote political cohesion, starting with immigration. Dr Sant made this statement while the European Parliament debated the programme of activities of the Netherlands Council Presidency starting this January.
Dr Sant said that without being make or break for the European Union, the first six months of 2016 could be make and break for current major European policies. Overall, the main challenge is to maintain political coherence. This should be a priority for the Netherlands Presidency, said Dr Sant. The Netherlands presidency work programme will focus on four key areas: migration and international security, sound finances and a robust eurozone, Europe as an innovator and job creator and forward-looking climate and energy policy.
The Maltese MEP said the rift between the north and south of the Union can be seen by all. It has been honed by the eurozone’s governance rules, confirmed by the results of the recent national elections in the south and highlighted by the ongoing spat between the Italian government and the European Commission.
A rift between the west and the east has now also become palpable, said Dr. Sant. It has been spurred by the immigration crisis but is driven too by a growing disparity in economic structures and different approaches to political methods. These have hitherto been masked by the perceived need to counter Russian “expansionism”.
Dr Sant said the possibility of a major EU player leaving the Union is further compounding uncertainties. By putting a priority on promoting political cohesion, starting with immigration, the Netherlands presidency could help to lay the basis for an effective consolidation of EU decision making. At present, institutionally, it is probably in the best position to do so, remarked Dr. Sant.
Various MEPs debated the priorities of the Netherlands Council Preisdency with Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Commission President Jean-Claude Junckerwho also participated in the debate.