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Dutch reactions on the Presidency Priorities

2009/07/14

Left Gothenburg this morning heading for the Netherlands and the Hague.

I have just held a speech at Clingendael, the Dutch Institute of International Relations. It’s a nice tradition that the Minister for European Affairs of the incoming Presidency gives an outline of the Presidency’s priorities. Today it was my turn to dwell on the issues that Sweden has put on top of the European agenda this autumn: a global climate agreement, solutions to the economic crisis, Europe’s role in the world, migration and closer cooperation around the Baltic sea.

I also shared a few ideas on how to fuel citizens’ interest in future European elections. In Sweden, turnout went up to just above the EU average, whereas many other Member States saw a decline in citizens showing up to vote. In short, I think it’s about making European politics local, to try moving discussions from Brussels to our kitchen tables. We know that European citizens expect the European Union to deliver on substance. It’s only when this actually happens, and only the day when European issues become part of the domestic debate that citizens are used to, that people across the Union will start being anxious about Europe.

My collegue Mr Frans Timmermans, State Secretary for European Affairs in the Dutch Foreign Ministry, gave his reaction to the presidency agenda, also with a view to current issues featuring prominently in the European debate. We both received a lot of questions from the audience, ranging from the enlargement to the climate negotiations, before taking off to Strasbourg and the first session of the newly elected European Parliament. We’re on the road again.

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