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Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the Netherlands has been accused of going against the principles of solidarity of the EU by southern member states. The country, alongside Austria, Denmark and Sweden, has been at the forefront of a campaign not to “give gifts” to other European countries and has rejected all the emergency financial measures that would lead to “debt mutualisation”. At the end of April, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was extraordinarily captured on film, as he reassured one worker that money was not going to go to the Italians or the Spanish.
During a visit to a waste processing plant, a man urged the Prime Minister to block taxpayers’ money from being used as part of an EU rescue fund for the bloc’s worst-hit countries.
The worker at Hague Environmental Services plant said: “Please, do not give the Italians and the Spanish the money.”
Mr Rutte responded “no, no, no”, before laughing and then giving him the thumbs up.
The video sparked fury, particularly in Italy, where anti-EU sentiment is growing stronger than ever.
It is not the first time the Netherlands has acted as a stand-alone country, though.
According to a throwback report by the Daily Express, in 2018, Mr Rutte rejected the idea of an EU Army backed by French leader Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Asserting that the continent’s safety could only be guaranteed through NATO, Mr Rutte said France and Germany were “jumping the gun” with calls for a European army.
During his weekly post-cabinet press conference, he said: “The idea of a European army is going way too far for the Netherlands.
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“France and Germany are really jumping the gun.
“As far as the Netherlands is concerned, NATO remains the cornerstone of our defence policy.”
Mr Rutte’s comments came after Mr Macron called for action during an interview with Paris radio station Europe 1.
The French President said: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.
“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.
“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the E Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.”
Mrs Merkel echoed Mr Macron’s calls as she claimed she supported a “real, true” European army.
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She said: “Jean-Claude Juncker some years ago said a common European Army would show the world there will never again be a war in Europe.
“I’m not saying anything about NATO of course not. We can be a good supplement to NATO.
“It would be a lot easier to cooperate if we have more than 160 weapons systems and the US only has 50 or 60. We realise that all the different instances have training and education. If we could pull this together we can work together with NATO.
“So we need a common armament system. It’s a difficult task for Germany as we will have to develop a common European armed exports policy.”
Other European politicians who have expressed support include former French Prime Minister Alain Juppé, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, former EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, former Czech Prime Ministers Miloš Zeman and Bohuslav Sobotka, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
A European army is a policy of the European People’s Party.
A 2019 survey found that 37 percent of Dutch citizens “approved the idea of a European army” while 30 percent are opposed.
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