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Курсовая: The Constants of Dutch Foreign Policy

     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 disease'.
     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').
     The Dutch decision to join the Atlantic Alliance was opposed only by the
Communist party, and has never been seriously questioned. The original support
for NATO should be understood against the backdrop of, on the one hand,
gratitude for the American effort to liberate the Netherlands in 1945 and for
Marshall Plan aid for rebuilding the ruined Dutch economy, tempered only
marginally by anger over American pressure to end the successful military
actions against Indonesian insurgents and, on the other hand, of growing
anxiety over Soviet imperialism, fuelled particularly by the Commu­nist
take-over in Czechoslovakia in 1948. Perhaps the Dutch embraced NATO membership
because it allowed them to continue as a naval power by compensating for the
loss of the colonies .
     Despite later criticisms of the participation in NATO by the then
dictatorial regimes of Portugal and Greece, despite opposition to American
involvement in Indo-China and Latin America, and even despite misgivings over
NATO's nuclear strategy, public support for NATO membership has never wavered.
The percentage in favour of leaving the Alliance has never exceeded 20 per
cent, and no major party has ever advocated withdrawal from NATO, not even a
'French', partial, one. Especially during the first decades of the Alliance,
the Netherlands acted as a particularly staunch ally and a loyal supporter of
US leadership in the Alliance.
     The Dutch share in NATO's defence expenditures has always been relatively
high compared with that of other smaller member states such as Belgium, Turkey,
Greece, Denmark, or Norway. The Dutch were among the 15 countries that joined
the USA in the Korean War (a UN mission de iure, a US mission de
facto). In 1957 the Netherlands wasted no time in becoming the first
European ally to accept American nuclear missiles on its territory. While other
member states demanded a say in the engagement) of such weaponry ('dual key'),
the Dutch would have been happy to leave this responsibility entirely to the US
government. Another quarrel with the Americans about Dutch colonialism, this
time about the Dutch—Indonesian conflict over Papua New Guinea in 1961—2, did
little to weaken the Dutch enthusiasm for the Atlantic Alliance. The
long-serving Foreign Secretary, Joseph Luns (1956—71) stead-fastly refused to
convey the protests of the Dutch Parliament over American intervention in
Vietnam to Washington. As we shall discuss in the following section, the Dutch
government always objected to plans for European rather than Atlantic defence
arrangements, and served almost as an American proxy in the EC. One author even
struggled to find a distinction between the Dutch role of faithful ally and
that of a vassal or satellite state: the submission of .the Dutch to American
leadership, he suggests, was not imposed, but voluntary
     With the retirement of Luns as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1971, the
Dutch role as America's small but staunch ally abruptly came to an end. Over
strong objections by the USA, the Dutch government supported acceptance of the
People's Republic of China as a member of the UN in 1971. Luns's successors as
Foreign Secretary had fewer misgivings about decrying US overt and covert
involvement in Latin America, and particularly in Vietnam. One of them, Max van
der Stoel, took pride in labelling the Netherlands a
'critical ally'. In 1975 the Dutch even targeted Cuba as one of the countries
on which to concentrate its development aid. Within NATO the change in Dutch
policy is evidenced by an increased emphasis on arms control negotiations, and
in particular on reduction of nuclear weapons. The proposed deployment in
1977-8 of the 'neutron bomb', or the 'enhanced radiation, reduced blast' weapon
as it was called officially, met with strong public opposition in the
Netherlands. More than 1.2 million citizens signed petitions against the
neutron bomb, which probably contributed to the vote in the Dutch Parliament
not to accept the proposals by the Carter administration. The episode of the
neutron bomb is important, because the issue ('a bomb that kills people, but
saves property') served to mobilise a large portion of
the population into what became known as 'the peace movement': a loose
coalition of Left-wing political parties, trade unions, fringe groups, and
individuals, dominated by two organisations linked to the churches in the
Netherlands, the Catholic Pax Christi and the ecumenical Interchurch Peace
Council (IKV). The fact that President Carter eventually decided to shelve
plans for the produc­tion and the deployment of the neutron bomb was
interpreted by the peace movement as a victory, and reinforced its resolve.
     Only one year later, in December 1979, NATO took its so-called dual-track
decision: the pursuit of multilateral arms reduction coupled to the
modernisation of the Alliance's long-range theatre nuclear weapons. As part of
the deployment of 572 new nuclear delivery systems, the Dutch were to accept
the stationing of 48 cruise and Pershing II missiles on Dutch territory. The
Dutch government made formal reservations to these plans in what became known
as 'the Dutch footnote' to the protocol of the NATO meeting. Despite these
reservations the government narrowly escaped a vote of no confidence in the
following parliamentary debate. Actually, the Dutch footnote was the first step
of what was to become one of the classic examples of' 'depoliticisation' in
Dutch politics.
     Domestic opposition to the cruise missiles was fierce. More and more people
rallied around IKV's slogan, 'Rid the world of nuclear weapons; starting with
the Netherlands' (surveys showed that more than half the population agreed with
the catch phrase). In 1981 about 400000 people participated in a demonstration
against the missiles in Amsterdam; the following year 550000 people marched
through The Hague in a similar demonstration; and in 1983 3.2 million Dutch
citizens petitioned the government to reject NATO's nuclear modernisation. Of
the major parties, the Labour Party was adamantly opposed to the missiles (but
one third of its voters favoured accepting the weapons on Dutch territory) and
made its position a major plank in its platform. The Liberal Party welcomed the
NATO plans (but one third of its voters rejected the missiles), and the CDA was
divided. For the Christian Democrats the issue was particularly threatening: we
have already mentioned the involvement of the churches in the peace movement.
The Dutch Reformed Church had already rejected the use of nuclear weapons as
un-Christian in 1962. Moreover, the NATO decision came at a particularly
awkward moment for the Christian Democrats. The CDA had only just been formed
and had not really amalgamated yet. A group ofMPs and party activists,
especially from the former ARP, feared (correctly, as it later turned out) that
the new party would shift to the right. They opposed the formation of a
governing coalition with the VVD in 1977, and they now used the issue of the
cruise missiles to strengthen their position within the party. Following its
reservations in the Dutch footnote, the govern­ment sought to depoliticise the
issue by postponing a decision: each year it announced to its NATO partners
that a decision would be taken next year. Eventually, in 1984, this position
became untenable within the Alliance. Prime Minister Lubbers then came up with
one of the most ingenious depoliticisation ploys in the history of
consociationalism: a final decision to accept the American missiles was to be
postponed one more year. If, by 1 November 1985, the Soviets had not increased
the number of their SS-20 missiles, the Dutch would refuse to accept the
missiles, whereas an increase in the number of Soviet missiles would lead to
automatic acceptance of the cruise and Pershing II missiles. In practice this
clever manoeuvre shifted responsibility for Dutch foreign policy to the
Kremlin! After a year the Soviets appeared to have added to the number of their
missiles, and without any significant protest it was decided to accept the
American weapons. Shortly thereafter Gorbachev and Reagan reached an arms
reduction agreement, making the Netherlands the only NATO country that had
accepted the Pershing II and cruise missiles, but where they never arrived. 
     The Dutch opposition to the neutron bomb, and the subsequent reluctance to
accept their share of the cruise missiles, have led to the diagnosis of
'Hollanditis', a supposedly contagious Dutch disease. Laqueur and others have
speculated about a re-emergence of the tradition of neutralist abstentionism,
now that both gratitude for American aid and fear of Soviet expansionism have
waned. Such a diagnosis can be valid only if it is accepted that the penchant
for neutralism disappeared when the Netherlands joined the Atlantic Alliance.
Neutralism can then be said to have been pushed to the background by the
exceptional circumstances of the first post-war decades. Now that things are
returning to normal, the Dutch return to neutralism. If, on the other hand, we
agree with the view that NATO only provided the security umbrella under which
the Dutch could continue to foster their aloofness from power politics, the
Dutch misgivings about nuclear weapons cannot be interpreted in this way. In
this respect it is interesting to note that, whilst the percentage of the
population agreeing that NATO contributes to detente in Europe dropped
from 65 in 1968 to 39 in 1978, the proportion of the population in favour of
continued membership of NATO did not decrease significantly.
     Most observers disagree with the Hollanditis diagnosis, whether they think
that neutralism was abandoned when the Dutch joined NATO or not. There are
three major counter-arguments to the Hollanditis thesis. Some argue that the
shift from staunch to critical, or even reluctant, ally should not be
interpreted as a sign of neutralist abstentionism, but as a development towards
a less submissive attitude, and a more activist role of the Dutch government in
international affairs. If there is a return to old traditions at all, the Dutch
opposition to NATO's nuclear deterrent fits in with the moralist or idealist
orientation of Dutch foreign policy. That is why the churches are involved;
that is why opposition to the missiles was closely related to a stronger
emphasis on human rights and development aid (see below). One author even
speculates that the changes in foreign policy are caused by post-colonial
guilt, felt in particular by Social Democratic Cabinet Ministers . 
     It is also argued that the more critical posture of the Dutch government
within the Alliance should not be explained in terms of Dutch foreign policy
traditions. If they are traditions at all, they arc traditions of the foreign
policy elite, not of the general public. More than other policy areas, foreign
policy has always been in the hands of a small, close-knit establishment. In
general, foreign policy was not the subject of conflicts between the political
parties, with few notable exceptions (such as rows over a Dutch embassy at the
Holy See in the 1920s). Foreign policy-making was also not embedded in a
neo-corporatist network of interest groups and advisory councils. In many
respects foreign policy making was the last remnant of a nineteenth-century
style in politics: elitist and non-partisan. This changed abruptly in the late
1960s and early 1970s. Foreign policy-making did not escape this change. As a
result of politicisation and polarisation the political parties, and in
particular the Labour Party, developed and emphasized their own partisan
proposals for the Netherlands' external relations. In the population at large
'action groups' became more vocal and visible, and some of them sought to
change the country's foreign policy. Popular disenchant­ment with the Dutch
role as America's staunch ally is thought to have resulted from factors such as
the coming of age of a new generation that had not itself experienced the
Second World War, the revulsion arising from the widely televised atrocities of
the Vietnam war, and exasperation with the ongoing arms race.
     It is this 'domesticisation of foreign policy that is often held
responsible for the change in Dutch foreign policy. Support for this view can
be found in the fact that the return from politicisation and polarisation to
the original 'rules of the game', was followed by a less 'deviant' position of
the Netherlands within NATO. It can also be argued, however, that the removal
of the nuclear missiles from the international agenda made such a return to the
mainstream of NATO possible, and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact since
Gorbachev came to power in 1985 may even have brought the mainstream of NATO
closer to the Dutch position. The position of the Netherlands within the
Alliance in the late 1980s and early 1990s is best illustrated by the
opposition, on the one hand, to President Reagan's Strategic Defense
Initiative, and the reversal, on the other hand, of an earlier decision to
scrap the nuclear capabilities of the F-16 jet-fighters and Orion
anti-submarine planes.
     Both these counter-arguments accept that a change in Dutch foreign policy
has taken place, but disagree with interpreting the change as a return to
neutralist abstentionism. However, the strongest argument against the
Hollanditis diagnosis comes from those observers who argue that, in practice,
the changes in the foreign policy of the Dutch government have been only
marginal. They argue that, pressured by domestic critique of NATO's nuclear
strategy, the Dutch government paid lip service to the ideal of nuclear
disarmament, while continuing its support of NATO. Perhaps the only difference
with other member states was the impact of public opinion on the Dutch
government. But if this resulted in the official rhetoric being neutralist, so
the argument goes, the reality was not so affected. Voorhoeve, for one, does
not concur with the popular description of Dutch security policy after 1970 as
that of a critical or reluctant ally. Himself a member of the opposition at the
time, he writes of the Cabinet that is held most responsible for the changes in
the country's foreign policy: 'They left not only staunch NATO supporters, but
also the disarmament lobby highly dissatisfied. By steering in-between these
extremes, the Den-Uyl Government had simply changed the country from a
"super-loyal" into a "normal" ally'. In support of this analysis he points to
the cuts in the Dutch defence budget in the mid-1970s which have often been
used as evidence of Hollanditis. Whilst such cuts may have been important in
absolute terms, they were not greater than in many other NATO countries. On the
contrary, the relative contribution of the Dutch to NATO's defence expenditure
increased slightly during the 1970s, whereas that of countries such as the US
or the UK decreased at the time.
     European Integration 
     The Dutch have the reputation of being enthusiastic subscribers to the
ideal of an integrated Europe. The practice of European integration, however,
is not always as wholeheartedly embraced: the Netherlands has been one of the
slowest member states in implementing measures under the single market. But
Europe is not an issue on the political agenda: no major political party
questions EC membership, and surveys consistently show higher than
average popular support for European unification in the Netherlands. From the
Dutch point of view the EC has fulfilled its two main promises. It has been
almost too successful in cementing Germany not only militarily (through NATO)
but also economically into Western alliances, and the Dutch are now wary of a
French—German directorate within the Community. The second promise, of
fostering Dutch economic growth by demolishing obstacles to trade (two-thirds
of Dutch industrial exports is to other member states), has also been a
success, and the Netherlands has, until 1992, always been a net earner from the
     Interestingly enough, the Dutch had to overcome initial hesitations before
developing their pro-Europe attitude. When the European Coal and Steel
Community was set up, the Dutch objected to a supranational authority, whereas
supranationality was later to become one of the characteristic Dutch desires in
Brussels. Another source of hesitation was even more curious: fear (by all
major parties except the KVP), of a papist Europe. This fear even had an impact
on the composition of the 1952-6 Cabinet. In Chapter 2 we noted that in 1952
the portfolio of Foreign Affairs fell to the KVP, but that the other
parties balked at the prospect of all the Foreign Secretaries in the EC being
Catholics. As a compromise a non-partisan Minister of Foreign Affairs, the
banker Beyen, was appointed, in addition to whom the Catholic diplomat Joseph
Luns became minister without portfolio, with the right to call himself Foreign
Secretary when abroad. When asked why the Netherlands had two Ministers
of Foreign Affairs, his stock reply was that, the Netherlands being such a
small country, the rest of the world was too large an area to be covered by
just one minister. Ironically, it was the Catholic Luns who turned out to be a
staunch Atlanticist, and it was Beyen who became one of the founding fathers of
the Community. The latter succeeded, together with Belgium's Foreign Secretary,
Spaak, in laying the foundations of the EC Treaty after attempts at a European
Defence Community and a European Political Community had foundered in 1954.
     Once these initial hesitations were overcome, two important obstacles to
European integration remained: a fear of domination by one or more of the
larger member states, and an emphasis on Atlantic cooperation in the areas of
defence and foreign policy. Because of these reservations it has been argued
that the Dutch Foreign Office sought to model 'Europe as a greater Holland'.
The fear of a directorate of larger countries, France, or a Franco-German
coalition, made the Dutch into proponents of widening the Community by
including more countries, but it was primarily translated into proposals to
strengthen the EC's supranational institutions, the Commission and the European
     Countries such as the Netherlands, it is felt, are too small to exert
influence in an intergovernmental power game. Supranational bodies, on the
other hand, are likely to pursue pan-European interests, and such interests are
deemed more compatible with Dutch interests than are specific French or German
interests. Thus supranationalism became a preoccupation of the Dutch within
Europe, from the near unanimous motion in the Second Chamber to transfer powers
to supranationalist institutions in 1948, to the conflict in 1991 between the
Netherlands as temporary chairman of the EC and the British government about
supranationalist tendencies in a Dutch draft for the Maastricht treaty. The
Dutch insistence, since 1964, on a directly elected European Parliament with
real powers should also be interpreted in this light.
     Officially, the Dutch have always worried about the 'European democratic
deficit': decision-making increasingly shifts to Brussels, where it is outside
the purview of national parliaments. This gap in democratic accountability
should be filled by a competent European Parliament. The introduction of direct
elections to the European Parliament, first held in 1979, was celebrated as a
Dutch victory for democracy. Turnout for these elections was low everywhere,
but it was particularly disappointing in the Netherlands. This has not helped
much in giving the supranational Parliament democratic legitimacy, but the low
turnout has only strengthened the resolve of the Dutch government to push for
more powers for the European Parliament, claiming that the low turnout is
caused by a reluctance to vote for a third-rate legislature. It is difficult-
to ascertain to what degree this concern for European democracy is real, or
whether it merely serves as a flag of convenience under which to strengthen the
supranational character of the Community in defence of Dutch national
     Whatever explanation is the correct one, it should be emphasized that the
campaign for supranationalism has always taken second place to the Atlantic
orientation in Dutch European policy. It is in the interest of Dutch trade that
the Netherlands has always attempted to prevent the development of a 'fortress
Europe' by welcoming the accession of new member states, and by objecting to
European protectionism. Yet, within that framework, the Atlantic orientation
has always been given precedence. Dutch Atlanticism is evidenced by a
reluctance to extend European cooperation to defence and foreign policy, and by
its support of British applications for membership of the Community. The Dutch
attitude is epitomised by Foreign Secretary Luns's finest hour: his 'no' to De
Gaulle's aspirations in 1961-2. In 1960 the French President announced his
proposals for a European Political Union, which included taking over some of
NATO's military responsibilities, and in which European institutions would be
firmly controlled by intergovernmental bodies. The circumstance that France was
the only nuclear power within the Europe of the original six member states, and
De Gaulle's suggestion that the new political union's secretariat be located in
Paris, provided sufficient fuel for fear of a Gaullist Europe. This anxiety,
the lack of supranational elements in the proposal, and the challenge to
America's leadership of the Alliance by the formation of a French-led European
defence bloc within NATO, all ran counter to established Dutch foreign policy
precepts. Irritation over the plans mounted when De Gaulle secured German (and
Italian) support on the eve of the 1961 meeting where the proposals were to be
discussed. All other member states, except the Netherlands, agreed to
under­write the French plans. Much to the surprise of Europe's two most
venerable statesmen, De Gaulle and Adenauer, their proposal was thwarted by a
Minister of Foreign Affairs (not even a head of state or government) from a
small country. Luns demanded that the political union should not affect NATO,
and that it-should develop supranational institutions. He was willing to drop
these conditions, however, provided that the UK was included.
     This last element, which became known as the Dutch prealable Anglais, 
is interesting since it shows that for the Netherlands Atlanticism took priority
over supranationalism. Because of Britain's special relationship with the 
USA, its accession to the Community would provide the Dutch with a powerful
ally in promoting an Atlantic orientation within the EG. At the same time it
was well known that the British were, (and still are) excessively wary of
transferring some of their national sovereignty to a supranational
organisation. The Dutch could not hope to get support for their plans in that
direction from British membership of the Community. After the inconclusive 1961
summit the Dutch were gradually forced to accept compromise proposals, and they
might have lost their struggle had not De Gaulle 'snatched defeat from the jaws
of victory' by rejecting the compromises, reverting to his original plan, and
vetoing British membership. In 1962 the Netherlands, now joined by Belgium,
once again (and this time definitely) vetoed the proposals.
     It is only in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the Atlantic orientation
seems gradually to have been pushed into the back­ground. The causes of this
change - it is still little more than a shift in emphasis — are to be found on
both sides of the Atlantic. The USA is perceived to be less focused on Europe
than it was in the past. In the 1970s there were already growing doubts about
the American guarantee of European security, and subsequently there were calls
to develop a European defence option within the context of the Western European
Union (WEU). Now that the Soviet threat has collapsed, the USA need no longer
give priority to Europe's defence. A new, more globally-oriented, USA foreign
policy is reflected in President Bush's 'new world order'. In economic terms,
the US is forced more and more to look westward. This Pacific economic
orientation of the USA has also weakened America's cross-Atlantic ties. At the
same time, the international situation has changed for the Dutch, too. The
Europe of the Six has become the Europe of the Twelve. From the Dutch point of
view the most important of the new member states has been the UK. There is less
need for an Atlantic reservation to European integration now that the Community
includes a large extra-continental power to counter-balance Franco-German
     The Dutch are also less opposed to European political cooperation because
they have learned from the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it can be risky to stand
alone. Before 1973 the Netherlands had a strongly pro-Israel reputation,
perhaps not always warranted by its actual policies. The Arab countries took
particular offence at the Dutch adherence to the English version of resolution
242 of the UN Security Council, calling for Israeli withdrawal from 'occupied
territories', rather than 'the occupied territories' mentioned in some other
versions. When war broke out in the Middle East in 1973, the Dutch government
unequivocally condemned the Arab countries, just as it had done in 1967. It
refused to join the other EC member states in a common reaction because of the
more pro-Arab attitude of the French in particular. For these reasons, in
October 1973, the Arab countries imposed an oil embargo not only on the USA,
but also on the Netherlands. The embargo of the Netherlands was even kept in
place four months longer than that of the USA. Despite panicky reactions at
first - 'car-free Sundays' were declared to save oil - the economic effect of
the embargo was insignificant because oil was diverted from other EC countries
to the Netherlands, despite their irritation over the Dutch obstinacy. The
political effect has been more important. Not only have the Dutch distanced
themselves more and more from Israel, but they have also come to see the
advantages of a common European foreign policy.
     Now that the renewed momentum of European integration has spilled over into
closer military cooperation within the WEU, and in renewed proposals for a
European Political Union, the Dutch take a less deviant stance than they did in
the 1960s. Yet, when the Netherlands took over the EC presidency in July 1991,
it attempted to redraft the existing Luxemburg proposal for the treaty to
establish a European Political Union to include more supranationalist elements,
and to allow a common security policy only as a complement to NATO, much to the
annoyance of several other member states. Apparently the traditional
reservations have not yet been completely abandoned.
     In the past the third constant of Dutch foreign policy, 'internation­alist
idealism' primarily took the form of the promotion of international law. More
recently it has also surfaced in foreign policy statements and documents in the
form of role-conceptions such as 'example' and 'developer': protecting human
rights abroad and providing aid to developing countries. These activities are
pursued primarily, but not exclusively, within the context of the UN. The
peace-keeping missions of that organisation have also been supported either
financially or militarily (as most recently in what was formerly Yugoslavia),
but that has not been the most conspicuous Dutch contribution to the UN.
     As a result of its historical links to the Boers in South Africa, the
Netherlands voted in 1961 against expelling the country from the UN for its
policy of apartheid, but subsequently the Dutch have become ever more critical
of South Africa. Since 1963 the Netherlands has complied with a non-mandatory
embargo on military supplies to South Africa, and as a temporary member of the
Security Council from 1983 to 1985 it took the initiative for a resolution
boycotting weapons made in South Africa. The Dutch have also offered financial
assistance to victims of apartheid. The Netherlands has similarly sought to put
pressure on South Africa through the EC.
     It is not only in South Africa that the Netherlands has supported the cause
of human rights. The Dutch have always advocated the appointment of a UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights. In terms of governmental policy, this support is
to a degree symbolized in the person of the Foreign Secretary, Max van der
Stoel (1973-7, 1981—2). Streets have been named after him in Greece and Eastern
Europe because of his support for democrats and dissidents when these countries
were still ruled autocratically.
     In the absence of objective and quantifiable indicators it is, however,
difficult to gauge the importance of human rights in Dutch foreign policy
compared with that of other countries. The Dutch preoccupation with development
aid lends itself more readily to cross-national comparisons. Whether out of a
sense of guilt about its colonial past, or as a modern extension of the
churches' missionary work, the Dutch attitude towards developing countries
borders on tiers-mondisme. The importance of development aid is
probably the one aspect of foreign policy on which all major parties are most
in agreement. Political disagreement is largely confined to which criteria
should be used to select countries for bilateral aid. Constant among these
criteria are the degree of poverty, the degree to which the indigenous
government puts in an effort of its own, and the existence of an historic
responsibility (i.e., to former colonies such as Indonesia and Surinam). More
controversial are criteria such as respect for human rights (especially when it
conflicts with the historic respon­sibility for former colonies turned
dictatorial), or the degree to which Dutch exporting companies can profit from
the aid. In 1992 such conflicting criteria led to an ironic episode in which
the Indonesian government retaliated against Dutch criticism of its human
rights' record by suddenly announcing that it would no longer accept Dutch
development assistance.
     Bilateral aid is not the only element in the Dutch development program.
Multilateral aid constitutes about one third of the total outlays for
development assistance and, officially, is preferred to bilateral aid. The
Dutch minister without portfolio in charge of these matters is therefore called
the Minister for Development Cooperation, rather than Development Aid. For the
same reason the Netherlands is an active defender of Third World interests
within various UN organisations in this field. As chairman of a UN commission,
the Dutch Nobel prize-winning economist, Tinbergen, was instrumental in setting
as a target for the 1970s that all rich countries spend at least 0.7 per cent
of their national income on development aid. Only Sweden and the Netherlands
met this target before the 1975 deadline. In absolute terms, the Netherlands
spends as much on development aid as the UK.
     Too much should not be made of the idealism in Dutch foreign policy. It is
striking that references to Dutch vital national interests are extremely rare
in documents and debates devoted to the country's foreign policy. However, this
should not be mistaken for political altruism. Interests and ideals are often
compatible, or the ideals are formulated as 'aims that are as vague as they are
pious', leaving sufficient leeway for an interpreta­tion that does no harm to
national interests. When interests and ideals do clash, it is fair to say that,
generally speaking, the Dutch merchant carries more weight than the Galvinist
minister. The example of how the Netherlands adjusted its Middle East policy
after the 1973 oil embargo has already been mentioned. On the other hand, the
idealism is more than mere rhetoric. In 1976 the government refused to give
export guarantees for the sale of nuclear reactor parts to South Africa; in
1981 the government narrowly escaped being censured for its rejection of an oil
boycott of that country. Most significantly, development aid, now at over 1.5
per cent of the national income, is the only chapter of the government's budget
that has escaped unscathed in budget cutbacks until the early 1990s.
     Foreign Policy Constants Re-examined
     We began this chapter with Voorhoeve's list of three clusters of traditions
or tendencies in the foreign policy of the Netherlands: maritime commercialism,
neutralist abstentionism, and internation­alist idealism. Together these three
themes cover so wide a range of policies that it has been argued that anything
the Dutch Foreign Office does can always be construed as evidence of at least
one of the three traditions. If one avoids that particular pitfall, however,
these tendencies provide a useful frame­work for an analysis of developments in
Dutch foreign policy. They can still be detected in the Dutch position in the
international arena. If the neutralist attitude has been forsaken, it was
already abandoned when the Dutch joined the Atlantic Alliance in 1949, but the
abstention from international power politics remained. With the benefit of
hindsight we were also able to conclude that it is at least an exaggeration to
interpret the somewhat less submissive attitude vis-a-vis the USA in
the 1970s as a return to neutralism. The emphasis on internationalist idealism
received a new impetus from the domestica­tion of Dutch foreign policy since
the 1960s, and was broadened to include the protection of human rights and
development cooperation. The only potential change lies in an incipient decline
of the Atlantic orientation, but it is more a gradual (even reluctant)
adaptation to changing international circumstances (i.e., weakening American
interest in Europe, and a renewed momentum of European integration) than a
conscious change of course. The Dutch may have too little sense of history to
maintain traditions, but they are also too conservative to throw them