Economics Update (July-September 1997)

Netherlands Ambassador Cites
Challenges Facing European Community

W hile recent developments in Germany and France have spotlighted the convergence criteria for achieving European Monetary Union, less attention has been given to equally important developments in political relations involving the countries of the European Union. Adriaan Jacobovits de Szeged, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States, reviewed some of these developments recently in a speech to Atlanta-area business and community leaders at the Atlanta Fed.

Developing a collective decision-making process for issues like crime, immigration and political asylum is a critical step toward greater economic integration in Europe, according to the ambassador. This work is crucial, he said, because the European Union cannot expand without agreeing upon these types of process issues. Currently, there are 15 member countries and 13 countries seeking membership.

While the European countries are in agreement about the need to make common policy, they have yet to resolve whether policies governing these issues will be made by majority vote and, more generally, how much flexibility individual countries will retain in handling these issues. Reaching a resolution is the work of the Intergovernmental Conference.

External relationships are also an issue for the European Community. Headway has been made in terms of relations between the United States and the European Union, he said, particularly in the area of testing drugs and food inspection. Foreign policy vis-à-vis countries closer to home has also had some success, Jacobovits de Szeged continued, citing negotiations to stop the fighting in Bosnia. But, in his view, major challenges remain, including other regional issues like Cyprus.

Return to Index