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Viewing cable 03THEHAGUE2843, AMBASSADOR'S NOVEMBER 10 DINNER WITH DUTCH PRIME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
03THEHAGUE2843 2003-11-13 14:02 2011-01-22 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy The Hague
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