EU: Mark Rutte calls for ‘strong Europe in an unstable world’

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Certain EU member states receive a percentage of money back from the pooled EU budget to which they contribute, including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The UK was the first nation to secure a rebate in 1984 under then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which set a precedent in subsequent years for a similar principle to apply to other countries.

The Netherlands, which has a rebate in place, secured an increased sum of over €1.9 billion from the EU budget in July 2020.

Austria, Sweden and Denmark also used the higher rebate budgets as leverage for agreeing to the EU’s €750 billion COVID-19 recovery stimulus package last year.

Rebates for certain countries has long been a controversial issue within the bloc, dividing member states, with France and the European Commission pushing to scrap them before the pandemic hit.

The rebate model for the countries receiving the funds back will be in effect from this year until 2027.

The rebate afforded to the Netherlands means that they will continue to be a secure member of the EU, as long as their financial payback from the bloc leaves them satisfied, an expert told Express.co.uk.

Professor Iain Begg of the London School of Economics and Political Science said there is always “what we call them a bit of noise, particularly in the Netherlands, when there’s any question of the Netherlands being asked to pay more towards European projects”.

He qualified this muted protest with the money the Netherlands claws back from the EU, adding the Netherlands “has been quite adept over the years” at “mitigating” financial hits they could take from their contributions “and ensuring that they get rebates”.

He added: “The Dutch have been doing pretty well with rebates in recent years and managed to maintain them during the current seven-year financial framework for Europe.

“So, although there are protests and grumbling in the Netherlands, it doesn’t get anywhere near creating a movement for Nexit.”

“Nor do I see anything similar in any other country.”

Professor Begg warned, however, that resentment from countries like the Netherlands can rise when certain bloc key players move to increase their influence over the EU’s direction.

He predicted friction in the union if France and Germany, with newly-elected Chancellor Olaf Scholz, attempt to lead unilaterally.

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He explained there would likely be “pushback on this from countries like the Netherlands, or Sweden”.

He said that these nations “have been uneasy sometimes about initiatives coming from Paris and Berlin”.

He added: “It’s a union of 27, not a union of two.

“So they’re not always going to accept what they want.”

Professor Begg made the caveat, however, that “the weight of their power, and the fact that Italy is now aligning quite closely with what Macron wants, I think does create a new momentum that wasn’t there maybe two years ago.”

Germany, as Europe’s largest economy, has traditionally exerted significant influence within the bloc, and newly-sworn in Scholz is likely to look to consolidate this power.

Mr Scholz took over from EU heavyweight Ms Merkel at the start of December, replacing the leader who had lasted a record 16 years in power.

He has already made a bid to strengthen relations with Mr Macron, with his trip to Paris in the second week of December the first out-of-state visit he made after taking up the chancellery.

He commented: “I think we’ll see a renewal of Franco-German leadership, which faltered over the last 10 or 15 years.”

He explained: “And that matters for the dynamism of Europe, because it will push other European countries to support what the Germans and the French want.”

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