Europe is about guaranteeing Netherlands safety: Dutch PM ahead of elections

In the run-up to the European Parliament elections next week, Prime Minister Mark Rutte is talking about his vision for Europe. According to the VVD leader, his ideas about that have shifted.  "Europe is market and currency, but a point has been added", he said to Nieuwsuur on Wednesday night. That point is safety. Without the European Union, the Netherlands is just a small country on its own in a big and increasingly volatile world. 

"Instability has increased in the world. When MH17 was brought down, I was calling my colleagues in Europe and beyond. At such a moment you notice that if something happens to us as a small country, you are embedded in the European Union. If all your colleagues say 'we are behind you as one man', then you are suddenly strong. For our safety the European Union is important. It is not self-evident that it will always be stable and safe here, that is where you need to be embedded."

On Tuesday Rutte called FvD leader Thierry Baudet an 'attic room scholar' who is taking "irresponsible risks with our safety, our stability, and our prosperity" with his positive position on the Netherlands leaving the EU. On Wednesday night, the Prime Minister told Nieuwsuur: "He is the largest party now. These elections are not without consequence. If you vote for Forum, you vote for a party that says 'you know what, we'll take the Netherlands out of the EU'. Such a Nexit is very harmful to the country." The VVD leader therefore wants to debate the FvD leader before the European Parliament elections next week. Baudet accepted that invitation on Twitter. 

The Prime Minister also talked about the years-long impasse in the European Union on the redistribution of asylum seekers. Many countries believe that asylum seekers should be a joint responsibility of the entire EU, but other countries - Hungary for example - refuse to take responsibility for asylum seekers who did not want to go to their country in the first place. 

Rutte thinks that this impasse can be broken by threatening to reintroduce border controls within the Schengen area. "Many of those Eastern European countries are members of Schengen and are proud of it. But membership also has the consequence that you have to show solidarity. If you don't, then there may come a time when we will reintroduce border controls more in the western part of Europe", he said. "You have to let the Eastern Europeans feel, 'yes, listen, it is not that you can only get things from Europe. You will also have to show solidarity'." Rutte said he already discussed this plan with French president Emmanuel Macron and will soon do so with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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