The Netherlands holds the Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers from 1 January to 30 June 2016. The country takes over the Presidency in difficult times: in the refugee crisis, Premier Rutte’s government is under domestic political pressure and the EU faces a challenge; the outcome of the UK referendum is uncertain and the Netherlands is holding a referendum on the EUUkraine association agreement on 6 April 2016.
The Netherlands wants to use the Council Presidency to drive the European Commission’s growth-relevant work programme. Top priority is tackling the refugee crisis. Monthly meetings of EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers should contribute to the implementation of existing Council decisions and to move forward discussions in the Council on the European Commission’s proposals – in particular on a fair sharing of the burdens of absorbing and integrating refugees among EU Member States as well as on the protection of EU coasts and borders. In the Competitiveness Council comprising EU Economics Ministers the focus is on strengthening the Single Market in particular for services, digitalisation of industry and the circular economy. In the Council for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Protection, the priority will be on the “Labour Mobility Package” which contains several legislative measures. At the start of the Presidency, BDI travelled to The Hague. Supported by its Dutch partner organisation VNO-NCW, it opened an exchange with representatives of the Council Presidency on the respective priorities. BDA will set out employers’ expectations in greater detail in an upcoming delegation visit in the Netherlands.