Following the Dutch government’s Berlin visit on Wednesday (2 October), Germany and the Netherlands signed a joint declaration of intent laying out a common energy transition plan, as well as closer cooperation in the areas of defence and asylum policy. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte for a set of bilateral talks in Berlin on Wednesday.
At a press conference, Merkel announced she was pleased to have “a whole series of things in common”. Previously, eleven parliamentarians from each state had held a joint plenary session and discussed current political issues.
Environmental protection issues were at the forefront, as was the case during the last government meeting in August. In the morning, Federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier and his Dutch counterpart Eric Wiebes signed a joint declaration of intent on the energy transition.
Both countries have promised to cooperate more closely in the area of offshore wind farms and to work together with France and Belgium to develop a common gas market. By 2030, the Netherlands will cease natural gas production in the Gröningen region, from which Germany has so far purchased gas.
In the future, hydrogen could play an essential role, according to the joint declaration.
“They intend to jointly perform a feasibility study on the viability of future hydrogen applications, hydrogen production, particularly production based on renewable energy, large scale storage and transport infrastructure,” the declaration states.
Concerning Germany’s climate package, Rutte said he understood the approach chosen, highlighting the aim of preserving the people’s way of life while reducing CO2 emissions. “But we don’t want people to have to cancel their holidays either,” the Dutch PM added.
As in previous consultations, Merkel reiterated her support for raising the EU target for reducing greenhouse gases from 40% to 55% by 2030. In August, Merkel announced in The Hague that she could “well support” such an initiative by Rutte.
Besides, the representatives of both governments discussed the further development of the European asylum system, which “is not as advanced as we would like it to be”, Merkel said.
Last week, Germany, France, Italy and Malta agreed on an interim solution for the distribution of migrants rescued at sea. Together with the Netherlands, they want to ensure the number of returnees is increased and military cooperation intensified.
“It is good fortune that after Germany had caused so much pain to the Netherlands 75 years ago, we are now working together in such a spirit of partnership,” Merkel said.
The topic of digitisation was also on the meeting’s agenda. Both governments want to work together to establish a European digital internal market and an EU-wide area for health data.
The aim would be for such data to be freely exchanged between European member states, in compliance with data protection regulations. To this end, an eHealth pilot project is to be launched in the German-Dutch border region.
Given the ongoing budget negotiations in Brussels, Rutte said he hoped “they could be concluded under the Finnish Presidency” [until the end of the year]. Together with Austria, Sweden and Denmark, both countries are committed to maintaining the multiannual financial framework (MFF) at around 1% of the European GDP.
The European Commission had proposed a 1.1% increase because of Brexit, while the Parliament even called for a 1.3% increase.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]