Establishing the priorities of the Presidency, the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the EU, Mr Pieter de Gooijer, set out four main areas of action: migration and international security, strengthening the finances of the Eurozone, promoting Europe as an innovator and job creator, and designing a long-term climate and energy policy.
Keen on interacting with the audience, Mr. Gooijer responded to numerous questions on critical issues. He stressed that this would be the Presidency of and for the citizens of Europe.
Adding a Dutch flair to the Council
It has become an unwritten tradition that the country holding the Presidency may introduce visual elements of its national culture to the Council and present the projects of national artists. From the beginning of 2016, Dutch designers started refurbishing the Justus Lipsius building. They are strongly committed to representing, not only Dutch, but European national identity. Accordingly, the building has been decorated with different shades of blue, starting with the Atrium floor which has been covered with a carpet of blue artificial grass.
In addition, a special bar area has been set up offering water from the 28 member states. During the spring, another artistic initiative will be launched in the bathrooms on the 50th floor, where the presidential chambers are situated. The bathrooms will be decorated with typical Dutch Delft blue tiles. The walls, on the other hand, will feature images and texts selected with the help of the European public through platforms such as Instagram.
Priorities and Promises
On the 20th of January the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte kicked off the plenary session in Strasbourg by outlining the priorities of the Dutch Presidency. He emphasised that Europe must be relevant to its citizens, and committed to their daily concerns. Rutte insisted that the EU must keep its promises. He also raised the issue of accelerating the registration of refugees, and called upon other politicians to enhance the internal market through technological means, for example by facilitating online shopping. The Netherlands wants to be perceived as a team player in Europe. "We want to make sure that all member states can play their part", said Rutte.
The Netherlands holds the Council presidency until the 30th of June 2016, and will be succeeded by Slovakia and Malta. For more information on the Presidency please visit the official webpage.