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Cablegate: Ambassador's November 10 Dinner with Dutch Prime

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 002843

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2013
TAGS: ECON IZ NL PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S NOVEMBER 10 DINNER WITH DUTCH PRIME
MINISTER BALKENENDE


Classified By: Classified By: DCM Daniel R. Russel:
reasons 1.5 (B) (D)

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador Sobel hosted dinner for Dutch
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende November 10. The PM's
Diplomatic Advisor Rob Swartbol and DCM also attended.
Balkenende promised that Dutch foreign policy would remain
constant when Ben Bot became FM on Dec. 3, but cautioned that
EU Presidency preparations would consume increasing amounts
of government attention. Balkenende restated his commitment
to shoring up trans-Atlantic ties and expressed interest in
working on US-EU border security and justice issues during
the Dutch presidency. He described an agenda with a heavy
European focus, and was cautious on whether the Dutch could
play a constructive role in fostering US-EU Article 98
agreements. The PM indicated he was also thinking about an
outreach of some kind to Israel. Balkenende thanked the
Ambassador warmly for the reception by the President and
other senior USG officials in Washington in September. End
summary.

New Foreign Minister, Same Foreign Policy
------------------------------------------

2. (C) Balkenende said that Ben Bot, set to replace outgoing
FM de Hoop Scheffer on December 3, would maintain the
government's priorities in foreign affairs: European
integration, the trans-Atlantic relationship, and continuity
in Middle East policy. Balkenende said Bot is indeed a
Europeanist, having spent the past ten years as Dutch
Ambassador to the EU, but will be strong in maintaining
trans-Atlantic ties and will maintain the existing division
of labor with the State Secretary for European Affairs.
Balkenende cautioned that Bot would have his hands full in
the first few months of his tenure. His first order of
business is establishing himself with the Parliament and
preparing for the EU Presidency. He also needs to invest in
establishing his management of the Ministry and to travel
abroad, including to Washington. Balkenende noted that he
himself would travel to the US in March to receive an award
at Princeton and planned to make a major speech on
trans-Atlantic relations at that time.

Dutch '04 EU Presidency
------------------------

3. (C) Sobel asked what initiatives the Dutch could take
during their presidency in support of the US-European
relationship. The Justice Minister, who had recently met
with DHS Secretary Ridge, had confirmed that Dutch would be
working on Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) issues during their
presidency and agreed that perhaps there could be progress on
the US-EU track. Swartbol said that the GONL had not made
decisions yet about any trans-Atlantic initiatives, but a
US-EU effort on border control and justice issues would fit
the Dutch emphasis on internal and external security. He
cautioned that the arrival of a new slate of EU Commissioners
in November '04 would complicate and delay things. PM
Balkenende said that he and Irish PM Ahern had discussed the
question of whether the Dutch would begin the process of
designing a program to follow Tampere -- the JHA multiyear
plan that would be completed and reviewed during the Irish
Presidency. In order to get anything done in the second half
of '04, the Irish would have to do the preparatory work.
Balkenende said he would ask his people to look at the
possibilities.

4. (C) The Ambassador urged the PM to stay engaged in the
trans-Atlantic partnership and show leadership in Europe.
Wrapping up on the EU Presidency, Balkenende said that the
government is increasingly busy in its preparations, although
he invited the Ambassador to contact him when there are
important US issues. The cabinet now meets monthly to review
Presidency preparations, and the pace of those meetings will
accelerate.
Balkenende listed the following Dutch priorities for the
second semester of '04:
- - Enlargement - Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey;
- - The new European Commission and Parliament;
- - Lisbon 2000 (economic), Tampere, and Common Security and
Foreign Policy (CSFP);
- - Deregulation in Europe; and
- - Promoting social values in Europe.

Other issues
--------------

5. (C) ICC: The Ambassador also raised the ICC, noting that
the UN arrangements will again expire in June, risking a
US-EU confrontation. The US position will not change, so
wouldn't it be better for the European Council Presidency to
deal with this? Balkenende replied that it would be very
hard to imagine the EU accepting Article 98 agreements with
the US. The American perspective on the ICC is very
different and will not change; Dutch political support for it
is strong. Swartbol added that since the Netherlands is the
host country, it is very difficult for the government to
engage on this matter. Europe does not want conflict with
the US over the ICC, but objects to pressure and publicizing
A. 98 agreements by other countries. DCM responded that the
US was not seeking to undermine the ICC and that EU countries
individually wanted to find a way out of the confrontation
with the US over the ICC. The treaty itself provided the
answer in Article 98 and we would welcome quiet Dutch efforts
with its EU partners to break the stalemate.

6. (C) Economics: Sobel briefed the PM on plans for a
high-level trade mission by Dutch companies to Silicon
Valley. Balkenende confirmed that he would address the group
via video and expressed interest in meeting with the mission
when it returned. He described the government's efforts to
increase private R&D spending, eliminate barriers to foreign
scientists coming to Dutch universities, and otherwise
increase competitiveness in the short and the long term.

7. (C) Iraq: Balkenende asked if the Madrid Conference had
been successful. Ambassador replied that it had been very
positive and a number of countries had risen to the challenge
at the last minute. DCM noted that there had been valuable
consultations in and on the margins of the conference. The
Iraqi Planning Minister al Hafidh, who visited the
Netherlands in October, had just been named Minister of
Development and International Cooperation - was the GoNL
planning to do more in helping to grow the Iraqi economy and
build infrastructure? Sobel said that Dutch industry has
been signaling its interest and was looking for leadership
from the government. Balkenende replied that Economic Affairs
Minister Brinkhorst was the person who should be developing
opportunities for Dutch companies and promised he would raise
the issue.

8. (C) The Ambassador probed Dutch thinking on the Middle
East in the run-up to their EU Presidency. Balkenende said
that any effort in the Middle East Peace Process would need
to be carefully prepared and depended on whether the two
parties were ready to negotiate seriously. Picking up the
point previously made to the Dutch FM in Washington last
September by White House Senior Director Elliot Abrams, Sobel
noted that anything that reduced Israel's isolation from the
EU would be beneficial. Swartbol later told the Ambassador
that the GONL, if it decided to get involved, would think in
terms of inviting PMs Sharon and Qurei (separately) to visit
Holland, probably sometime next year.

Comment
-------

9. (C) Balkenende remains staunchly supportive of the
trans-Atlantic relationship and again demonstrated his
accessibility to the Ambassador and willingness to entertain
new ideas. The conversation revealed, however, the extent to
which he and the GONL are increasingly consumed by the vortex
of Europe, particularly in the run-up to the Dutch EU
Presidency in July '04. Dutch decision-making in the best of
times is slow and diffused - and Balkenende is a
consensus-builder in a coalition cabinet, not an assertive
leader dominating the political scene. This means that
although Balkenende's heart is in the right place, getting
him, incoming FM Bot, and other senior GoNL officials to
focus adequately and consistently on US equities will be a
labor-intensive process -- although well worth the effort.
RUSSEL

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