Toespraak minister-president Rutte bij de Conferentie van commissies voor Europese aangelegenheden (COSAC)

Toespraak minister-president Rutte bij de Conferentie van commissies voor Europese aangelegenheden (COSAC) op 13 juni 2016 in Den Haag. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to The Hague, and welcome to the Hall of Knights. This building dates from the thirteenth century. Back then, it towered above everything else in sight. This enabled Count Floris the Fifth, who commissioned the buildingĀ  to impress his foreign visitors. Given the rise of the skyscraper in recent decades, I fear I can no longer impress you with the building's height. Yet it still impresses me every time I'm here, for it is the beating heart of Dutch democracy. Since 1904, the annual State Opening of Parliament has been held here. So this is the perfect venue to receive you, today, as representatives of the national parliaments.

In early April I addressed the conference of your counterparts for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. And there I offered a 'mid-term review' of the Dutch EU Council Presidency. We're now in our final month, so it's almost time for a round-up. But believe me when I say that, as far as we're concerned, it's too early to sit back and reflect on everything that's happened. We still have lots we want to achieve in the final weeks of our Presidency.

For example, we're hosting a conference in Amsterdam today, called 'Working together to strengthen the Single Market for EU businesses and consumers'. I can't say exactly how it will unfold. But the title should give you an idea of what it's all about. We want to shift into high gear and complete the Single Market. There's still enormous untapped potential here, especially in the digital market and in the market for services.
The European Commission has already proposed a series of measures for making better use of the Single Market. The challenge now is to make them reality. Today's conference is a call to action to ensure that those new measures are adopted by the end of 2018.

This is one of many themes we've worked on in the last few months. We've had to keep a lot of balls in the air. And we've had to devote attention to urgent issues as they've unfolded. We've made progress in all these areas, but there's still a lot more to be done.

We need to keep working to solve the migration problem. In recent months we've shown that Europe can agree on a joint approach in a short space of time. Not only by tackling the root causes of the crisis in Syria, but also by creating hotspots and, not least, by making clear agreements with Turkey. We should be careful about drawing conclusions too early, but we're seeing the first results. Fewer people are risking the dangerous Aegean crossing. And we're on course to create a European Border and Coast Guard, which will protect the EU's external borders. In recent weeks, however, we've seen hundreds of drownings on the Southern route to Italy. These terrible images force us to confront a harsh reality: this crisis is not over yet. Not by a long way.

We need to keep working to build a robust eurozone and sound public finances. And we need to ensure that we stick to the agreements we make. We have agreed a new deal with Greece, a crucial step in its economic recovery. A debate has been launched on possible reforms to the multiannual budget. And we're developing a roadmap for the completion of the Banking Union, which includes plans for rolling back risk in the bank sector. So we've planted many seeds. Now we have to make sure they take root.

We need to keep working to ensure a safe, secure Europe, where the chances of a terrorist attack are kept to a minimum. We've agreed to enhance infomation-sharing between security services, for example. And we've agreed to exchange passenger information. These are important steps in the fight against terrorism.

We need to keep working to develop a forward-looking climate-and-energy policy. It's vital that we maintain the momentum of the Paris summit. We can start by translating one goal into specific legisltation: a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.

And we need to keep working to complete the Single Market. So that we can finally take the steps that our economies need, steps that generate growth and jobs, and bolster public support for the EU.

Because, let's face it, that support has been waning in recent years. For many people, 'Brussels' is an abstract concept. A bureaucratic monster that takes decisions they have no say in. And you, as representatives of the national parliaments, can play a key role in changing this. You can be a bridge between your own societies and the distant world of Brussels.

Over the past few years, the Dutch parliament has worked hard to enhance the role of national parliaments in the EU. And in the process it has taken a long, hard look in the mirror. Here is a quote from the report by our House of Representatives, 'Ahead in Europe': 'A single national parliament can only play a very limited role in European decision-making. But by working with other parliaments, one's own parliament becomes stronger.'

This shows why COSAC is so valuable. And it's why I welcome the fact that COSAC's role has been bolstered over the past few decades, not least after the Lisbon Treaty. The challenge now is to use the available resources as effectively as possible.

Take the proposal to introduce a 'green card' procedure alongside the yellow and orange cards. I consider this a very constructive initiative, as long as it helps keep the EU focused on the essentials. I saw that you will be discussing the use of the green card later this morning. As far as I'm concerned, we can start using it straight away.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, the support of national parliaments will be crucial for the implementation of all the plans I've mentioned. So I ask you to urge your governments to stay committed to completing the Single Market. To keep working to solve the migration problem. And to stay focused on sound public finances and forward-looking climate policy. Our national parliaments can achieve great things if they work together. That's why it's good to have you meeting here in The Hague. To see you sharing best practices and seeking common instruments for monitoring the EU's executive branch.

Together, you can give the national parliaments the loudest possible voice in Europe. And in doing so, you will help reinforce our democratic foundations, foster stability and boost public support.

Thank you.