Dutch PM Mark Rutte lays out agenda as EU president

Mark Rutte (Photo: Nick van Ormondt/Wikimedia Commons). (Mark Rutte (Photo: Nick van Ormondt/Wikimedia Commons))

Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday to outline the priorities for the Netherlands' term as EU President, for the firs six months of 2016. Rutte called Europe a "large, shared and complex project that can only move forward one step at a time". "In this tradition we will also complete the Dutch Presidency", he said.

The first priority on the Prime Minister's list is the refugee crisis in Europe. Much time and energy will be put into this crisis in the coming months and the Netherlands will, as president, give it as much focus as possible."It is crucial that the agreements we made with Turkey late last year are carried out fast, to relive the pressure on our external borders. It's crucial to offer refugees a humanitarian alternative to risking their lives at sea in flimsy boats. We need safe reception in the region", the Prime Minister said in his speech.

Another important goal for the Netherlands' Presidency is to move forward with existing initiatives and projects aimed at innovative growth and job creation. "And, of course, enhancing the stability of the eurozone will remain a focus of those efforts. But above all we must seize the existing in our internal market." Rutte said. "It would mean millions of jobs for millions of people."

Rutte also believes there is a consensus emerging that the EU should focus on areas where cooperation is the only option, such as migration , the internal market and reducing restrictive rules for people and businesses. "Our Presidency fully endorses the Commission's priorities and work program, which are founded on these principles."

The Prime Minister thinks it's good that the debate on the EU's future is happening so openly, almost in every member state. "But we should not reduce that debate to the question of 'more or less Europe?' The question is how to build a better Europe: a Europe that makes the best choices and achieves the most benefits for its people."

Prime Minister Rutte's full speech can be read here.