1. Increasing US focus on Asia: implications for the foreign and security policy of NATO, the European Union and the Netherlands
The United States is increasingly focusing its foreign and security policy on Asia and the Pacific, a trend that reflects the growing economic significance of this part of the world, the emergence of China and India as economic and military heavyweights, increasing defence spending in Asia and the potential for conflict in the region.
How might this shift affect the Netherlands and, more generally, Europe? Does the AIV believe that economic, political and military power will indeed have shifted to Asia and the Pacific in 15 to 20 years’ time? Is it a zero-sum game (where Europe loses out) or are there opportunities to be had for the Netherlands and Europe? How should Dutch foreign and security policy respond to this trend? This includes Dutch contributions to NATO and the European Union, such as helping to develop NATO’s Strategic Concept and helping to decide whether the European Union needs a new security strategy.
Should the Netherlands push for an active role for the European Union in Asia when it comes to political cooperation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding? Should the Common Security and Defence Policy pay attention to this region? If so, what partners are relevant in this connection, not only in terms of individual countries (and China and India in particular), but also ASEAN, for example? And can NATO play a significant role in Asia beyond Afghanistan? What kind of role could the partnerships sealed in Chicago with such countries as Australia play in this?
2. Foreign and security policy interests in the Arctic Ocean
The melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean is opening up a wide range of economic opportunities, including access to new gas and oil reserves. And within the foreseeable future, the Arctic Ocean will be navigable for part of the year (the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long made a successful passage to Iceland in August 2012). The emergence of new trade routes could have major implications for the Netherlands, especially the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. These developments could provoke tensions between countries, and it is important to the Netherlands that peace and stability be maintained in the region. Arctic countries discuss such issues in the Arctic Council, and although these developments will have a considerable impact on the Netherlands, it does not have a seat on the council but merely observer status. Various questions arise: how will the melting of the Arctic ice affect foreign and security policy? How can the Netherlands best protect its interests in the region? Do the UN, NATO and the EU have a role to play in guaranteeing security and stability here?
3. Raw materials diplomacy
In recent years Germany has established bilateral partnerships with countries rich in natural resources, including Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Germany’s aim here is to share expertise and generally to strengthen ties with these countries in the hope of securing orders for German businesses. France has done the same, with the Central African Republic for example. No trade agreements have been concluded because they fall within the exclusive competence of the EU.
The Netherlands is currently working on a strategic partnership with Germany, as part of which Germany is being given the opportunity to discuss the ‘raw materials roundabout’ concept, in which the Port of Rotterdam plays a key role. At the same time, Dutch businesses are being invited to join the Rohstoffallianz, a joint raw materials purchasing initiative run by several major German companies. The Netherlands and Germany are also examining the possibilities for joint multilateral intervention.
Should the Netherlands also enter into bilateral partnerships with countries rich in natural resources? And what other like-minded consuming countries (besides Germany) could potentially be important to the Netherlands as partners in raw materials diplomacy? How could such partnerships take shape? Would the Netherlands be better off joining in on existing partnerships? Or should it push for a common European approach?
It is interesting to note that the major new players in the raw materials market (primarily the BRICS countries) have placed much of their focus on Africa in recent years. With this in mind, are the Netherlands and Europe paying sufficient attention to Africa in their raw materials policy or should they step up their African activities in the years ahead?
4. The rule of law in the European Union
The EU treaties stress the importance of respect for human rights, freedom, equality, democracy and the rule of law as fundamental values of the Union. These values are vital to the effective functioning of the European treaties and the agreements they contain, both for citizens and for the member states. The effective rule of law is essential to the Union as a legal community. Achieving the objectives set for policy fields such as the area of freedom, security and justice, the internal market and the EMU depends in good measure on mutual trust between the member states. This applies, for example, to the mutual recognition of court judgments and making investments in another member country. It is essential that rights and obligations can be enforced in an effective justice system based on an independent judiciary.
This is why candidate countries are expected to meet a whole range of requirements pertaining to the rule of law, including prerequisites involving the judiciary and the protection of the fundamental rights (Chapter 23 of the acquis). Effective measures aimed at combating corruption and organised crime form part of this. However, once a country has joined the Union, there is no structural mechanism for mutual dialogue on the state of the rule of law in the member states. Neither is observance of the Union’s fundamental values formally monitored by the EU. While it is possible to take action against a member state if it continues to breach the Union’s values – including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights – by suspending its voting rights, for example (article 7 of the Treaty on European Union), in political and legal terms this is a very severe instrument and one that has not been applied to date.
The impact of shortcomings in the rule of law on EU citizens, member states and the EU as a whole in key areas like the Schengen area and the eurozone has recently become apparent. These experiences demonstrate the need for stability in the rule of law, for an effective EU and mutual trust between the member states, and for EU citizens.
The question is whether more needs to be done to promote the rule of law in the EU and, if so, what? What role can the Netherlands play in this? In view of the sovereignty of the member states, would it be useful to create an instrument that would encourage dialogue between them so as to gain a better idea of the state of the rule of law in the various countries? The aim here would be to boost mutual understanding and trust, address potential shortcomings and prevent problems, including those of a political nature.
5. Internet freedom
The internet has become increasingly fundamental to freedom of expression, which is precisely why certain countries are attempting to restrict its use. But there is also tension between freedom of expression on the internet and commercial rights, for example when it comes to sharing music and films. The Netherlands is a global pioneer of internet freedom and hosted an international conference on the subject in 2011.
Internet freedom is a dynamic policy area, with issues like cyber security, cyber crime, copyright, privacy, internet governance and related themes making it increasingly complex. An AIV advisory report on Dutch efforts in the medium term to protect and promote internet freedom in foreign policy could focus these efforts and make them more effective. Questions to be answered are:
- When it comes to managing the internet, how can the Netherlands promote respect for human rights on the internet at the level of organisations such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)?
- How does the debate on human rights on the internet relate to domestic legislation and cyber security developments, and how can the Dutch government pursue a coherent policy both at home and abroad?
- How can the Netherlands incorporate discussions on big data, e-privacy and related topics into its internet freedom efforts?
- How can the Netherlands involve non-state actors to help it achieve its own objectives?
6. Coherence in international economic and financial architecture
Shifts in the international economic and political balance of power are putting the global governance structure under severe pressure. New structures are emerging (the most important being the G-20), while others are showing cracks. Major emerging countries, such as the BRICS, are demanding more say and threatening to go their own way if they are denied this. The plans for a kind of Asian IMF (the Chiang Mai Initiative) are just one example. Behind these major players are smaller emerging countries and poor countries that have yet to emerge. In negotiations smaller countries are often incorporated into new groups headed by a heavyweight like China or Brazil, though this does not necessarily mean that BRICS countries are actually representing these poorer countries. In fact, there are frequent signs that smaller countries do not feel their interests are being represented by the BRICS, which may make them even more vulnerable in the new balance of power. This raises the question as to how the interests of the poorer countries are being taken into account in the creation of an international system. This applies to the negotiations being carried out not only in the WTO but also in the UN, including the climate negotiations. Development interests come into play in virtually all debates on international public goods.
The AIV will be asked about the position of smaller emerging countries and poorer countries in the context of the changes being made to the international economic and financial system to reflect the new international balance of power. It is important here to explore exceptions for poorer developing countries. For example, how much latitude can or should they have between bilateral trade agreements and multilateral rules? Another crucial point is shaping the governance of international public goods. In this respect the AIV should focus on the stability of the international financial and monetary system, which is one of the five priorities on the Dutch agenda for international public goods. While the system’s effectiveness is essential for opening up economic opportunities to poor countries, the international debate on reform has so far failed to give sufficient attention to the system’s development dimension. This reform is a key issue in the aftermath of the financial crisis, with decisions being made by the IMF, G-20 and other forums dominated by the industrialised and BRICS countries. To ensure a coherent development policy, the implications for our relations with developing countries must be considered in the Dutch and European contributions to these forums.
Additional questions in this context are: how does the instability of the financial system affect developing countries’ access to the capital markets? And how does this instability and resulting new regulation impact access to financing in developing countries? How can the financial architecture be configured to limit or offset shocks for developing countries? What role can the Netherlands play in this? And what about the European Union?