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date: 17 January 2021

The Netherlands and European Integrationlocked

  • Mathieu SegersMathieu SegersDepartment of Science and Engineering, Maastricht University

Summary

Why did the Netherlands take part in the process of European integration from the beginning? How did that happen, and what consequences did it have? At present, questions like these linger immediately beneath the polished surface of the official narratives of economic rationalism and idealistic instrumentalism that dominate narratives about the Netherlands’ role as founding member of European integration. The clear no-vote in the 2005 referendum on the constitutional treaty for the EU and the outbreak of the Euro-crisis in 2010 have pulled the veil away from these underlying issues. As one of the founders of today’s European Union, the Netherlands has been a key player in the process of European integration. The Dutch like to think of themselves as shapers of European integration—matching their image in historiography—but the history of their participation in the European project often tells a very different story. Yes, as founders of the EU, the Dutch actively co-shaped European integration, but often in ways not unveiled in the official and rather consistent post facto narratives. In the past decades, governments in The Hague often steered an erratic course in European integration, trying to reconcile high hopes for instrumental free trade arrangements and transatlantic community with a deep-seated anxiety over the potential emergence of a small, continental, and politicized “fortress Europe.” This is a story that is both less known to the public and less prominent in the existing historiography.

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