2nd December 2015

What does the Dutch Presidency mean for the European agenda?

Written by Claudia Trauffler, EU Policy Advisor

On 1 January, the Netherlands will take over responsibility from Luxembourg for chairing the Council of the European Union and setting the European agenda for the next six months. This will be the twelfth Presidency for the Netherlands, which is also a founding member, as it was for Luxembourg. Easy game, one would assume. This Presidency will however be very different from past ones, or so we have been told.

Led by our new Managing Director for Financial and Wholesale Policy, Ronald Kent, the BBA organised last week a members’ delegation to The Hague and Amsterdam. Representing the banking industry and the breadth and expertise of the City of London as financial centre of the EU, the aim was not only to get a better understanding of the priorities of the next Chair of the Council, but also to offer our help wherever possible.

What we found there is to an extent what we imagined already: the UK and the Netherlands are truly like-minded countries. Historically outward-looking and trade-friendly, both share a common objective for greater competitiveness. Pragmatism and economic liberalism are the lenses though which the Dutch see the business world. And this is how we expect them to conduct their Presidency in the field of financial services.

So, what are their priorities for the next six months for financial services legislation? As mentioned, we were told that this time would be different, and that we should manage our expectations. The Dutch intend to be realistic in their goals, and focus on what can be achieved. They will move forward with files such as the Bank Structural Reform and the securitisation proposals when and if the European Parliament concludes a position. They will work on what is on their plate: the review of the Prospectus, the Directive on Occupational Pensions (IORPs) and whatever else is tabled in the meantime, like the CCPs recovery and resolution proposal for example.

We certainly were surprised to hear that their top priority for this mandate was to push on the European Deposit Insurance Scheme proposal, a file that is so politically sensitive that their willingness to move it forward contrasts with the pragmatism they show on other issues. Even further, it is not only the EDIS: the Dutch policy-makers are already strongly thinking on the Commission’s next proposals to complete Banking Union, which were formulated in a communication that was published with the EDIS proposal. There is a strong political will in the Netherlands to tackle this, as we understand the Dutch national parliament voted on a resolution that invited work on sovereign risk in banks’ balance sheets. It appears they are keen to find a European solution to this issue.

The financial services agenda is one thing but, in the big picture, it is likely to be eclipsed by other priorities. Europe is facing difficult times and whatever happens on the Greek, foreign policy and migration fronts will certainly overshadow everything else. Last but not least, the Dutch Presidency will chair the discussions on the UK’s renegotiation with Europe. The UK and the Netherlands are like-minded countries; and whereas the Dutch understand some of the UK’s asks for reform, we have however been reminded that they are and remain very much European.

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