Power shifts in a changing world order: report of conference

On 4 February 2011 several speakers explained how global power shifts will affect the role of the European Union and the position of the Netherlands at the international conference on Power shifts in a changing world order: the role of the EU and the position of the Netherlands.

The speakers at the conference shared the following views:

  • The international position of the Netherlands is best served by a strong European Union that powerfully defends combined economic and political interests.
  • This could mean that the Netherlands relinquishes its formal positions in international organisations in order to allow the European Union to act as a unified political force on the world stage.
  • The Netherlands also stands to benefit from closer relations between Europe and China, without this being a threat to transatlantic collaboration.

In his opening speech President of the Dutch Senate, René van der Linden, said that the financial crisis and the recent tensions in the Eurozone show that greater European coordination is called for.

Keynote speaker Jan Peter Balkenende pointed out that the Netherlands has far more actual influence in fields of financial, economic and technological endeavour than it does through its formal position in international bodies.

In his speech during the closing session Uri Rosenthal, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, also spoke out in favour of a more united European presence on the world stage.

Professor Wei-Wei Zhang of the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations praised the effectiveness of China's economic model, which is characterised by a free market economy and private investment without the adoption of the liberal freedoms of Western democracies. He also said that China deserves political recognition for the role it plays as the engine of the global economy and as a financier of Western economies, and, given that this is the case, he is also of the opinion that China should be well represented in international forums.

As the Dutch representative on the Executive Committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Age Bakker shared the last of the views expressed by Professor Zhang. He foresees a different distribution of power within organisations such as the IMF and the G20 which will reflect the power shifts in the global economy. Bakker also felt that the Netherlands is best served by a coordinated European presence. The rapid economic growth of the Asian countries, mounting US government debt and the imbalances between countries in the Eurozone will create considerable tensions between these power blocs in years to come.

The conference was convened at the initiative of the Dutch Senate, the Advisory Council on International Affairs, the Clingendael Institute of International Relations and the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR).