The Constants of Dutch Foreign Policy (реферат)

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The Constants of Dutch Foreign Policy

Peace, Profits and Principles is the catchy alliterative title of a
book on Dutch foreign policy by Joris Voorhoeve, one-time parliamentary
leader of the VVD (1986-90). Under these three headings he sought to
analyse the major traditions of this foreign policy, which he defined as
‘maritime commercialism’ ‘neutralist abstentionism’ and
‘internationalist idealism’. Others have objected to the concept of
traditions in this respect, even arguing that the Dutch have
insufficient historic sense for traditions. Such authors prefer to speak
of tendencies, themes, or constants, and some of them have amended or
enlarged Voorhoeve’s list. On closer inspection, however, the themes
mentioned by other authors remain closely related to the clusters of
attitudes mentioned by Voorhoeve. There is also little disagreement
concerning the origins of such tendencies or traditions.

Both the size and geographical location of the country have left their
imprint on the country’s external relations. The Dutch domestic market
being quite small but ideally located to serve as a gateway to the
European hinterland, the Netherlands came to rely on maritime trade.
This has brought an Atlantic perspective to its foreign policy,
sometimes bordering on anti-continentalism. Already in the seventeenth
century, Pieter de la Court, a Leyden merchant and political scientist,
advocated creating a wide swathe of water to the cast of the province of
Holland, to separate it from the European continent. As late as the
1950s the Dutch Foreign Office proclaimed: ‘ The Netherlands cannot
exist without Europe, but it is a continental European nation neither in
its history, nor in its character.’ Despite altercations with the
British first, and despite irritation over American pressure to
decolonise later, the Netherlands has continued to rely on these two
extra-continental powers. This reliance is due partly to the importance
of maritime trade, but also to the desire to have a countervailing power
to the dominant state on the continent, be it German or French.

The significance of trade for the Dutch economy has also led to another
of Voorhoeve’s traditions, ‘neutralist abstentionism’, a set of
preferences described by others as ‘economic pacifism’; it is a
reluctance to accept changes in the status quo, or downright
conservatism. The Dutch colonial empire could not be defended
adequately, and was therefore best protected by a neutralist policy. The
flow of commerce was best served by an opportunistic abstention from
European power politics. Any disturbance of the balance of power could
be detrimental to trade, and was therefore deplored. The Netherlands has
been described as a ‘satisfied nation’, quite happy with things as they
are in the world. After 1945 the failure of neutralism as a security
strategy was recognised by Dutch politicians and the public alike, and
the joining of the Atlantic Alliance has been interpreted as an
unequivocal abandonment of the neutralist tradition. Other observers,
however, maintain that NATO membership constitutes less of a break with
tradition than it may seem at first sight. Now that the international
status quo was no longer guaranteed by a Pax Britannica, the Dutch
supported a Pax Americana. Both the old and the new situation in which
the Dutch found themselves allowed them an afzijdigheid in
afhankelijkheid (aloofness in dependence): membership in a Western bloc,
dominated by one superpower has permitted a continuation of traditional
Dutch neutrality within a new framework and has relieved them of the
need to develop an ambitious foreign policy of their own. It was the
perception of a renewed emphasis on neutralism in the 1970s that led
Walter Laqueur to his diagnosis of ‘Hollanditis’ as a second ‘Dutch

The third constant in Dutch foreign policy, ‘internationalist idealism’
in the words of Voorhoeve, is often attributed to the Calvinist church
minister in every Dutchman, rather than to the merchant in him.
Especially when this idealism transforms the Dutch government into a
Dutch uncle, wagging an admonishing finger at other nations, the
relation with Galvinist moralism is too obvious to miss. The same can be
said of another manifestation of internationalist idealism, the emphasis
on international law. Article 90 of the Constitution even charges the
government with the promotion of ‘the development of the international
rule of law’. Such legalism is not entirely alien to Galvinist culture.
Often, however, minister and merchant went hand in hand. Dutch attempts
to codify international relations are sometimes perceived as symptoms of
Dutch conservatism, of its clinging to the status quo. Moreover, ever
since Grotius, the content of international law has rarely failed to
serve the Dutch interest in free trade and open sea passages. The Dutch
interest in neutralist abstention from power politics is easily
disguised as moralism.

In this chapter we shall take a closer look at these three clusters of
supposedly constant foreign policy preferences by examining the Dutch
role in three international organisations. It is through its active
involvement in a large number of international organisations that the
Netherlands tries to rise above the status of a small country: in terms
of territory the country ranks 117th in the world, in terms of
population 40th, in terms of GNP 14th, but in terms of membership in
international organisations it ranks second in the world. The three most
important ones are also most suited to a discussion of the three
constants in the foreign policy of the country: NATO (‘peace’), the EC
(‘profits’) and the UN (‘principles’).

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