“From seven separate provinces, the Netherlands became a confederation, and later one nation, a world power. The Dutch golden age. Today, we need a European golden age”

By Guy Verhofstadt

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“Dear Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte,

I think you are absolutely right: the new world order, the new challenges such as climate change, calls for a new Europe, a more united Europe, a stronger Europe, a Europe also with the necessary tools …and money…and as we known, money is always a delicate matter to bring up with the Dutch. In the 17th century the Netherlands showed us the way. When it was called “The Republic of the Seven United Provinces”. Created as an independent state in 1581. Sinking the Spanish Armada in 1588, with a little help of the Brits (and some bad weather). And on that victory, building in 1602 one united fleet. A little bit a Europe avant-la-lettre. From seven separate provinces, the Netherlands became a confederation, and later one nation, a world power. The Dutch golden age.

Today, we need a European golden age. And the enemy this time is no longer Spain. Besides in football maybe. The challenge today is the circle of evil around our continent: Putin, Erdogan, and on a bad day even Trump. Putin on his own, is reason enough to create a more united Europe. A Europe that stands in solidarity with you in the ongoing tragedy around MH17. And not only I think the Union should fully support you in this case, but I want to call upon President Juncker and President Tusk to see how the whole European Union can join you in court, in your fight for truth and justice.

But Putin not only risks getting away with shooting down flight MH17. He gets away with almost everything today: cyber-attacks against Baltic states, murders in the streets of London, killing of political opponents in Moscow, more importantly, the illegal occupation of numerous regions in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. It’s time we wake up. Especially as we have today an American president who is unreliable and who seems more comfortable with autocrats than with his own Western, democratic allies.

The inconvenient truth is that we are on our own today. If there is an attack on European soil, we cannot be sure anymore that America will come and save us. So it’s about time we take our own responsibility. In defense especially. We need far more than the inflation of bilateral and regional cooperations we have today. We need a European pillar in NATO, a real European defense community that can act on its own. Credible, efficient and cost-effective.

But our problem runs deeper than that, deeper than only foreign policy or external security. Europe has a fifth column in its ranks. I call them the cheerleaders of Putin who want to destroy Europe from within: Le Pen, Wilders, Farage. They take Kremlin money. They rely on Kremlin intelligence. Like Arron Banks, the good friend of Nigel Farage here, who colluded with Russians to make Brexit happen. Together with government leaders like Orbàn, Kaczynski, Salvini: these people have only one goal and that is to destroy Europe, to kill our liberal democracy.

So I was very pleased to hear, Mark, that as Emmanuel Macron, Xavier Bettel, Charles Michel, that you together with all of them want to stop this illiberal plot. The “illiberal” project of Mr.Orban and his alt-right nationalist and populist friends is not compatible with our Union, not compatible with our European values.

And it’s time to fight back. And we count on you Mark, to lead us into this battle.”

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