Euro2004 Championships, sovereignty hand-over in Iraq, etc.: What many people are letting pass them by is the fact that, as of July 1, the EU’s rotating presidency goes to the Netherlands. Most of the on-line Dutch press has ignored this so far, too, but at least De Volkskrant is willing to devote an article to looking ahead at that: The Netherlands “Realistic, but Ambitious” as EU- Chairman. (Yes, it seems the Dutch also refer to the rotating “presidency” as the “chairmanship.”) This mainly reports the presentation Dutch foreign minister B.R. Bot and his state-secretary Atzo Nicolaï gave on Wednesday in Brussels which outlined the Netherlands’ plans for the upcoming six-month “chairmanship.” (more…)
You’ll be glad to know that the Dutch government approved last Friday an extension to the deployment of that country’s around 1300 troops in Iraq, who otherwise would have packed up and left next month. You may recall that there were increasing doubts about whether having troops there was really such a good thing, especially after the first Dutch soldier was killed last month (coverage of that was itself covered, of course, here in EuroSavant). But now in fact what’s been approved is not the usual six-month extension but one of eight months, until March of 2005 – designed to have Dutch troops in place to help provide security for those Iraqi elections scheduled for next January, plus a safety margin of a number of weeks beyond.
What has made all the difference has been that United Nations Security Council resolution on the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraq that was passed unanimously last week, as an analysis in the NRC Handelsblad by René Moerland and Floris van Straaten makes clear (From Dilemma to Necessity – free registration required). (more…)
The US military may be present in Iraq on the open-ended plan, with no fixed terminal date, but that is hardly true of most of the other Coalition forces – including the Dutch battalion stationed in southern Iraq, whose deployment the Dutch Parliament (specifically, the dominant lower house, or Tweede Kamer) approved for only one year, until next July. As you can well imagine, that upcoming deadline for withdrawal evidently weighed heavily on Colin Powell’s mind on Monday as he met the new Dutch foreign minister, dr. B.R. (for “Bernard Rudolf”) Bot, for their first ever tête-à-tête “getting-to-know-you” lunch. (They had met once before in December at the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. Bot is the new Dutch foreign minister in the first place because Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the previous one, was snatched up to become NATO Secretary General as of the beginning of December; his selection was covered on €S here.)
It’s a little early to be making definitive decisions about whether those Dutch troops are going to stick around for another murderous Iraqi summer (not to mention those murderous Iraqi insurgents – but there hasn’t yet been a Dutch casualty, knock-on-wood). That’s the opening message Bot is said to have delivered to Powell. That may also be why the meeting received relatively little attention in the Dutch press, basically getting it only from the top and the bottom, i.e. from the somewhat-tony NRC Handelsblad (Powell to Bot: Keep Army in Iraq) and from the popular-but-not-quite-gutter-press De Telegraaf (Powell to Bot: Stay Longer in Iraq). Ooooh, those headline similarities are spooky – but oh-so-commanding! (more…)