In preparation




1. Flexible EU integration                                                                                             

In June 2014 the European Council concluded that there should be scope for ‘different paths’ towards EU integration for different countries. This can be seen as an affirmation of the present reality. In the realm of Justice and Home Affairs, the Schengen system is seen as a success story, and the EU has gained broad experience with opt-outs, as exercised by the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. In recent years integration measures taken as a result of the financial crisis have highlighted the divisions between euro and non-euro countries, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called in the past for a ‘two-speed Europe’ to facilitate a fiscal union. Even the concept of second-tier ‘membership’ for non-member states that wish to deepen their ties with the EU has a place in the debate on flexible integration.

The European Council’s embrace of flexible integration can be read as a concession to member states that cannot support the notion of ‘ever-closer union’. What is more, flexibility – whether via treaty provisions on enhanced cooperation or otherwise – offers a necessary alternative to fully-fledged integration of all 28 countries. The member states’ divergent views on the general purpose and ultimate goal of the EU, and the criticism of the trend towards a political union, make it increasingly difficult to achieve consensus on the course EU integration should take. More and more, these dynamics are leading to varying speeds and multiple layers of integration within the EU.

It is not only the gap between the leading and ‘peripheral’ members that raises questions about the desirability and institutional implications of these ‘different paths’, and about relations between the member states. There is also the matter of the permanent divide that exists between member states based on their participation in the EU’s integration frameworks. The government would therefore welcome an analysis of trends in flexible integration, with a view to exploring the political, institutional and policy-related consequences for the Netherlands and the EU. This analysis could address the following questions:

  • What is the AIV’s view on the expectation that more frequent use will be made of flexible integration for the foreseeable future, and what policy areas warrant specific attention in this connection?
  • What consequences could an increase in flexible integration have for the EU’s institutional architecture and governability?
  • What consequences could an increase in flexible integration have for relations between the EU member states?

2. Lethal Autonomous Robotics

The scope for using new technologies to develop fully autonomous weapons systems (known as lethal autonomous robotics (LARs), ‘killer robots’ or ‘Terminator-style robots’) is now a topic of international debate. That debate was initiated in part by the report on LARs produced by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heyns. In addition, a consortium of NGOs has launched a campaign entitled ‘Stop Killer Robots’.

The development of LARs is an extension of the larger trend of increasing computerisation of and autonomy in weapons systems. Given the rapid advances in technology, it is a trend that raises legal, ethical and policy-related questions. These may concern a person’s right to a fair trial, for example, or the civilian protection safeguards laid down in the Geneva Conventions, including rules on the testing of weapons systems. As well as weighing up the merits of putting limits on the use of technology, we should also consider ways of preventing or tackling the use of such weapons systems by hostile regimes or non-state actors.

The Netherlands is itself bound by the obligation to test all weapons systems and thus has a direct interest in gaining insight into the question of – and possible responses to – the ‘robotisation’ and growing autonomy of weapons systems. The Netherlands has no plans to develop LARs itself, but does wish to participate actively in the international and public debate on such systems. This advisory report could contribute to that international debate. The government takes the position that the international law of war (and international law in general) should determine the way forward and believes it is undesirable to develop lethal fully autonomous offensive robot weapons that lack any form of human intervention. In the government’s view, the debate on the deployment of remotely piloted aircraft (‘drones’) falls outside the scope of the debate on LARs.

Given the mandate of the Advisory Committee on Issues of Public International Law (CAVV) and that body’s previous advisory report on armed drones (July 2013), the advisory report on LARs could be drafted in cooperation with the CAVV.

3. Protection of civilians during peace missions

In recent years protection of civilians (POC) has acquired a prominent place in the mandates of UN peace missions. Although primary responsibility for protecting civilians rests with the national or local authorities of the country concerned, the UN has placed it at the core of UN peace operations, partly in response to the UN Secretary-General’s initiative, Human Rights Up Front. Thanks to this initiative, the integration of human rights experts and human rights monitoring into peace missions is increasingly a prominent component of all UN activities. In UN operations, POC encompasses all activities that could enhance the safety and dignity of civilians in armed conflict. The Netherlands supports this policy. The better UN missions become at protecting civilians, the more public support for missions will increase. Nevertheless, POC remains a big challenge and the policy is still being developed. The biggest problem is a lack of capacity and resources. There is also a need for a more integrated approach in order to foster civilian protection.

The Netherlands supports these trends. To underscore the importance the country attaches to this issue, the government included POC in the assessment framework for constitutionally mandated letters to parliament on the deployment of military units abroad. The Netherlands contributes to civilian protection by training its own troops, police and military police in this field when they are deployed to peace missions. It also funds NGOs such as the Center for Civilians in Conflict, which runs awareness-raising projects within NATO and UN bodies. The Netherlands also funds efforts by the UN’s Department of Political Affairs aimed at settling disputes at an earlier stage (prevention). The Netherlands sends POC experts to missions and will provide active input on POC for the revision of the Concept of Operations. Finally, in mid-February the Netherlands will host a regional conference on UN peace operations, in which POC will be one of the key themes.

The UN Security Council’s ambition (shared by member states like the Netherlands) to efficiently incorporate POC considerations into all instruments is under pressure owing to the increasing challenges faced by UN missions. What lessons can be drawn from the experience gained to date? How can member states like the Netherlands contribute even more effectively to civilian protection, both at bilateral level and when they participate with other countries in international missions? Are human rights sufficiently embedded in the work of missions, from the highest level on down, both at headquarters and in the field?

A comparative study of UN and EU working methods in this area could be useful.

The AIV’s advisory report on this subject could contribute to both the debate at large and the Netherlands’ decision-making on how best to help foster effective POC.

4. Post-2015 international cooperation system

Development cooperation occupies an increasingly prominent position in the new, broadened agenda for international cooperation. This agenda devotes more attention to cross-sectoral issues such as climate change, environmental management, security, human rights, migration, financial stability and the relationship between aid and trade. The number of actors is also growing: global economic development requires involving the business community in formulating and achieving worldwide goals, a more specific framework for international corporate social responsibility, greater transparency and a different dynamic between public authorities, businesses and civil society organisations. Other focus areas are financing and implementation: to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) it is essential to consider drawing on public, private, national and international resources. Effective cooperation among a growing number of actors requires good internal coordination in determining who is responsible for what goals, measuring results and ensuring accountability. The system needs to be more inclusive. International multi-stakeholder partnerships on theme-based goals could be a useful instrument for ensuring an effective approach. As the agenda grows broader, policy coherence at and between the different levels will likely become far more important. Finally, countries’ sense of being equally important is also a significant factor. This is reflected for example in the universal applicability of the SDGs: the Netherlands too will have to abide by any agreements that are made. The system of international cooperation established over the decades will have to evolve so that it is adequately equipped to accommodate the consequences of these trends.

Examining these issues in greater depth will involve an approach focused on specific themes, such as tackling inequality (e.g. between men and women) or sustainable consumption and production. The themes will be chosen in consultation with the AIV, and will take account of the impact an advisory report could have on change processes that are already under way.

The advisory report could address the following questions:

- How can the post-2015 agenda help boost global cooperation in a number of fields including, for example:

  • better legislation and international advocacy;
  • more inclusive global governance through better engagement of non-state actors such as businesses;
  • coordination/synergy;
  • effective forms of financing and knowledge-sharing;
  • better monitoring of and accountability for the efforts of the various parties.

- What, specifically, does this mean for the role of the various non-state actors, including businesses? What should be expected of the non-governmental sector, the business community and other new players?
- What, specifically, does this mean for the role of the UN and the international financial institutions in the post-2015 development agenda? How can the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation contribute to it? What role can it play?

5. ‘Glocalisation’, local/regional authorities and the EU

Although key policy fields are increasingly shifting into the realm of the EU, some observers contend that there is a parallel tendency towards regionalisation. The Netherlands is decentralising key parts of the welfare state and social security system. In various countries regions are asking for more autonomy. This explains why some observers have identified a trend of ‘glocalisation’.

Despite this mixture of globalisation and localisation, however, the nation-state remains the primary point of departure for EU policy. The member states’ representation in both the European Parliament and the European Council is organised at national level, and it is the national parliaments that have a formal position in the EU, while local and/or regional authorities are represented only in the Committee of the Regions. It is worth asking, however, whether the above trend should have implications for EU governance. Shouldn’t other ways be found of connecting the local and regional to the EU-wide?

In this framework the government has commissioned research on the substantive alignment between the European and regional agendas, the effects of EU policy on local and/or  regional authorities, and potential areas for improvement. The government is also running five EU policy development pilots in which these authorities are involved.

A more structured analysis of long-term social, economic and governance trends could contribute to these exploratory efforts by providing a strategic framework and innovative recommendations. The following questions arise:

  • To what extent are there parallel trends towards regionalisation and ‘Europeanisation’ of policy, and how are they linked?
  • How should these trends affect European policy development, in terms of both its substance and procedures?
  • How should these trends affect the EU’s institutional architecture?

6. Decision-making on the deployment of (very) rapid response military capabilities

The European Council of December 2013 gave renewed momentum to the further development of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) – particularly its military elements – as part of the broader Common Foreign and Security Policy and the EU’s external policy. These efforts include improving the EU’s rapid response capabilities, as part of the planned enhancement of the CSDP’s effectiveness, visibility and impact. A special concern in this connection is the situation regarding Battlegroups, the EU’s only permanent rapid response military capability. The failure to deploy Battlegroups to date undermines the EU’s credibility as a security actor. Without political will this instrument will not be deployed for its intended purpose, even though the European countries’ need for a rapid and effective joint capacity to act appears greater than ever, given the increased instability on the continent’s southern and eastern flanks. In view of the reduced level of US engagement, the EU now increasingly bears responsibility for finding a suitable response to threats, including sudden crises that require military intervention.

At NATO level, too, there is a renewed focus on enhancing the allies’ capacity for decisive, rapid military intervention. This focus is partly due to the new security environment, particularly in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. At its Wales Summit, NATO decided to create a Very High Readiness Joint Taskforce (VJTF) within its existing rapid response capability, the NATO Response Force. The VJTF will make it possible to respond more rapidly to sudden troop movements on the eastern and southern flanks of the NATO area. So far, however, the NATO Response Force has suffered the same fate as the EU Battlegroups: apart from operations in the aftermath of major natural disasters in Pakistan and the United States, the instrument has barely been deployed.

In recent emergency military interventions, the US and the major European nations have (initially, at least) opted for working in small, ad-hoc ‘coalitions of the willing’. From this it may be concluded that the process of political decision-making on military deployment at EU or NATO level clearly does not lend itself well to the need to act quickly.

The parliamentary working group on the NATO Response Force chaired by Hans van Baalen (whose report was issued in June 2006) and the AIV (which produced an advisory report in May 2007) have previously examined the potential tension between national and international decision-making on rapid military deployment. The question that looms now is whether  national and international decision-making procedures need to be adjusted to facilitate the use of (very) rapidly deployable military capabilities, and if so, which procedures.

7. Energy’s role in the EU’s broader external policy

In June 2014 the AIV produced the advisory letter ‘The EU’s Dependence on Russian Gas: How an Integrated EU Policy Can Reduce it’. Energy is a key geopolitical issue that will define the European agenda in the coming period as the EU strives to build an energy union and diversify both its supply and its sources of energy. The EU’s dependence on energy imports will increase in the next few years. This calls for a strategic vision on energy. The government believes there would be added value in a follow-up advisory report on the role of energy and energy diplomacy in the EU’s broader external policy. The report should be drafted in consultation with the relevant expert advisory bodies in this field.

Requests for advice
2017-09-04 Request for advice on possible post-Brexit coalitions in the EU
2017-08-16 Request for advice on Africa 2020: international cooperation in a continent with mixed growth prospects, inequality and instability
2017-02-13 Request for advice on NATO's long-term adaptation