The Constants of Dutch Foreign Policy

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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.

Реферат опубликован: 17/03/2009