Are the Netherlands taking on the role of Germany? - Action Press / Shutterstock / SIPA

  • This Friday, the European Union is looking into a massive issue: the 750 billion euro recovery plan supposed to help the countries most in economic difficulty to get out of the coronavirus crisis.
  • A plan that leaves a lot of skeptics of Nations, the Netherlands in mind, who keep challenging the viability and the interest of such a recovery plan.
  • A position that resembles that of Germany during the previous European crises. To the point of taking its place?

We all, in our group of friends, this guy who counts his money, refuses to pay his round, reminds us that "a penny is a penny" or that "good accounts make good friends", and refuses to call itself "stingy", simply "reasonable". In Europe, this friend would certainly be the Netherlands, fields of tulips in the eyes but sea urchins in his pockets when having to decide on the recovery plan to 750 billion euros on which the European Union is looking this Friday.

This role of the friend who wishes us well as long as we do not touch his wallet has long been endorsed by Germany, especially during the crisis of 2008. Intransigent against Greece, Spain or any other Mediterranean Nation accused of a too lax economy. But while Berlin is now opening the funding gates to the countries of the South, Amsterdam has put on the costume of the austerity policeman. To the point of taking its place?

Audible voice but featherweight

Not so fast. If the speech may seem similar, Anne Sophie Alsif, economic head of the Office of Economic Information and Forecasting (BIPE), brings us back to a reality far from words: the Netherlands does not have the same economic weight at all and political than Germany. “It is always the Franco-German couple that weighs on the European Union. The Dutch voice carries very little in comparison ”.

In reality, the discourse of the Netherlands has not changed for decades. And if we can have the impression of discovering it today, it is because Germany has changed its mind. “The Dutch seem to be heard today because they carry a dissonant voice from the Franco-German discourse, but not sure that they can weigh against or impose a veto. This summit will precisely determine what their true field of action is, ”says economist Véronique Riches-Flores.

Diverse economic sociology

Hence the question: Why did Berlin veer when Amsterdam stayed on its positions? When she held her speech of firmness and austerity, Germany was turned towards the world more than towards the Old continent, evokes Véronique Riches-Flores. An ultra-exporting nation, it took advantage of the boom in massive developing countries to sell its industry. With the successive economic crises, and the US-China trade war, Germany saw its foreign market shrink. So much so that today, what keeps its exports - and therefore its finances - afloat is the Europe of neighboring countries. Decision was therefore made to support its rare customers rather than slap them on the fingers by teaching them a lesson once again.

The equation is not exactly the same for the Netherlands, "a country historically turned towards foreign trade, with therefore a very liberal thought and which exchanges with the world", depicts Anne Sophie Alsif. Understand: little attached to Europe and its internal market. Unlike Germany, its economy - more modest - has suffered less from the throes of world crises and remains enriched by countries other than the 27. Not a prophet on their continent, the Netherlands have always pushed for the EU-Canada treaties or EU-United States, even going so far as to sulk the least protectionist paragraph on Europe, contrary to their economic philosophy.

Essential role

But just like our stingy friend allows us not to wake up with a hangover and 150 euros of slate at the bar, wouldn't Europe need a "bad cop" to temper the requests repeated reminders? The Netherlands now has the leadership of economic frugality, and "this remains an essential voice in the debate," says Anne Sophie Alsif. In other words, someone had to take on this role.

Leaving to pass for heartless austere? Not sure that this is a problem for Amsterdam, laughs the head of the BIPE: "No matter what the southern countries think, with which the Netherlands has little business. On the contrary, even that the Netherlands defends liberalism at all costs and to oppose huge public spending will probably be very well seen by its own population, and that is all that matters. "

The fact remains that Germany has not changed its speech out of kindness, "but because it understood that it was in its interests," recalls Anne Sophie Alsif. The Netherlands is trying to serve their people, like all countries. This is perhaps the lack of Europe, each country thinks first of it before thinking of the collective. "


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