March 17 and 18: European leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are meeting in Brussels to confer about a new deal on an ambitious resettlement program to tackle illegal migration into the EU. In an interview with FNF Europe, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, assesses the chances of such an agreement and outlines how the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the EU will help Europe meet its current challenges.
Mr Prime Minister, what are your expectations for the upcoming summit?
I’m cautiously optimistic but there’s still a lot to do to reach an Agreement with Turkey. An Agreement would mean that we would stop this business model of the boat smugglers, it would mean to stop the irregular flow of migrants from Turkey to the European Union, and of course it will mean that we have to find ways in terms of alleviating the pressure on Turkey.
We will still have migrants coming to the European Union but in lesser numbers and not in the irregular, life-threatening way they are doing at the moment. So I am cautiously optimistic that we could get there.
In how far can Liberal values and politics, for example through the Dutch Council Presidency, guide us to meet the current challenges in the EU?
Liberal values are crucial I would say! Without kidding, I think we constantly put practical and forward-looking solutions on the table, making sure that human rights and basic values are protected.
But we are also working on the economy. The European Union is in the first place the internal market and there is still so much to do. We are using our Presidency to push for the completion of the single market, for example with regards to the digital single market, the Services Directive, but also the Energy Union and the Capital Markets Union.
If we could fast-forward in time, 50, 100, 200 years, what do you think the EU will be looking like?
I think it will still be a beacon for the rest of the world, the place where liberal values first got established and were integrated in societal thinking.
Europe will still be very innovative, a place where people want to live and want to go to.
Of course I hope by then that many other parts of the world will also have been lifted out of poverty.
We will also have found a way to deal with the environmental crises and climate change, because it has always been the EU that has provided the main solutions in terms of innovation and technological breakthroughs to deal with these challenges. The climate conference COP 21 in Paris by then will have been 200 years ago but we will still talk about this important and life-changing conference having taken place in Paris – and Europe will have taken the lead. That would be my wish and expectation.