Many of the preconceptions about the Netherlands in the EU are wrong. Over the past few years, Dutch and international media have signalled almost daily that, all of a sudden, the Netherlands has changed from a pro-European into an anti-European country. It is as if the Netherlands no longer wants to move backward or forward in the EU and as if politicians are only too happy to criticise the EU. What prevails is the paradoxical image of a small open country that has cooled towards Europe. The Netherlands as an EU Member: Awkward or Loyal Partner? looks beyond grand statements like `the Netherlands is for/against Europe and employs the sectoral thermometer: are we actually seeing the Netherlands withdraw at the very level where policy is pursued and where European agreements are made? Was the Netherlands really that pro-European in terms of policy implementation in the first place, and has that changed now?
The chapters in this book show that the Netherlands has always been pragmatic in its approach to Europe. In the short-term perspective of the media and politicians, the Dutch unconditional support for a supranational body like the European Commission may have changed into a form of intergovernmental cooperation more dictated by self-interest, and instead of championing further integration the Netherlands may now be stalling or reversing European policy. However, the chapters underline that, in general, the Netherlands was not dogmatic at all but rather made choices based on largely objective considerations of use and necessity: sometimes more intergovernmental, while at others more supranational, sometimes more focused on regulation, on other occasions aimed at deregulation and coordination. Nor did the Netherlands suddenly change its views or became more critical of the EU in 2005. Reserve has always been part of the Dutch approach.