Speech minister-president Rutte tijdens ontmoeting met collega's van Benelux, Baltische staten en Noord-Europese EU-lidstaten

Deze toespraak is alleen beschikbaar in het Engels.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A very warm welcome to you all on this, the longest day of the year, and a time of midsummer celebrations in many Northern European countries. But today is also special because I can’t recall ever receiving such a large group of European leaders here in this historic setting. I suppose it’s a sign of these extraordinary times. Times in which we all feel the need to work together more closely.

We face many challenges that call for a common approach. Migration is a cross-border issue that requires us to join forces and work with countries outside the EU, strengthening our borders and improving the European asylum system. The instability at our borders and the geopolitical challenges posed by an assertive Russia and the new leadership in the US underline the need for Europe to step up its efforts on foreign policy and defence.

At home, the European economy is gathering speed. But we still need to do more to create jobs and unlock the full potential of our single market. We will also need to invest time and energy in the Brexit negotiations. Vital national interests are at stake. And we will need to adapt to a European Union without our British partner at the table. It was with this in mind that the Benelux countries decided to invite our Nordic and Baltic friends to The Hague. To discuss how we can work together to reach these goals.

This is not a new initiative, as our countries have been partners for many years. For centuries, in fact. Our meeting today carries echoes of the Hanseatic League, which in the late Middle Ages stretched all the way from the Low Countries via the Nordic route to the Baltics. The League was open-minded and trade-oriented, and it created many opportunities for people and business. And open-mindedness also characterises this meeting. I should emphasise that this is not some exclusive club.

In fact, it’s not a formal club at all. We’re simply coming together to discuss a positive agenda for cooperation in Europe. An agenda  that all 27 remaining member states will support. We all talk regularly with other member states as well. The Benelux met with the Visegrad Group only two days ago, for example. And the other countries here have similar meetings with other partners. That’s a positive thing, because solving our common challenges will require partnership, leadership and innovative thinking.

I have every confidence that our meeting today will contribute to that goal. Having said all this, I think it’s time to get down to work. So welcome again, and thank you.