The Dutch have the reputation of being enthusiastic subscribers to the ideal of an integrated Europe. The practice of European integration, however, is not always as wholeheartedly embraced: the Netherlands has been one of the slowest member states in implementing measures under the single market. But Europe is not an issue on the political agenda: no major political party questions EC membership, and surveys consistently show higher than average popular support for European unification in the Netherlands. From the Dutch point of view the EC has fulfilled its two main promises. It has been almost too successful in cementing Germany not only militarily (through NATO) but also economically into Western alliances, and the Dutch are now wary of a French—German directorate within the Community. The second promise, of fostering Dutch economic growth by demolishing obstacles to trade (two-thirds of Dutch industrial exports is to other member states), has also been a success, and the Netherlands has, until 1992, always been a net earner from the EC.
Interestingly enough, the Dutch had to overcome initial hesitations before developing their pro-Europe attitude. When the European Coal and Steel Community was set up, the Dutch objected to a supranational authority, whereas supranationality was later to become one of the characteristic Dutch desires in Brussels. Another source of hesitation was even more curious: fear (by all major parties except the KVP), of a papist Europe. This fear even had an impact on the composition of the 1952-6 Cabinet. In Chapter 2 we noted that in 1952 the portfolio of Foreign Affairs fell to the KVP, but that the other parties balked at the prospect of all the Foreign Secretaries in the EC being Catholics. As a compromise a non-partisan Minister of Foreign Affairs, the banker Beyen, was appointed, in addition to whom the Catholic diplomat Joseph Luns became minister without portfolio, with the right to call himself Foreign Secretary when abroad. When asked why the Netherlands had two Ministers of Foreign Affairs, his stock reply was that, the Netherlands being such a small country, the rest of the world was too large an area to be covered by just one minister. Ironically, it was the Catholic Luns who turned out to be a staunch Atlanticist, and it was Beyen who became one of the founding fathers of the Community. The latter succeeded, together with Belgium's Foreign Secretary, Spaak, in laying the foundations of the EC Treaty after attempts at a European Defence Community and a European Political Community had foundered in 1954.
Once these initial hesitations were overcome, two important obstacles to European integration remained: a fear of domination by one or more of the larger member states, and an emphasis on Atlantic cooperation in the areas of defence and foreign policy. Because of these reservations it has been argued that the Dutch Foreign Office sought to model 'Europe as a greater Holland'. The fear of a directorate of larger countries, France, or a Franco-German coalition, made the Dutch into proponents of widening the Community by including more countries, but it was primarily translated into proposals to strengthen the EC's supranational institutions, the Commission and the European Parliament.
Countries such as the Netherlands, it is felt, are too small to exert influence in an intergovernmental power game. Supranational bodies, on the other hand, are likely to pursue pan-European interests, and such interests are deemed more compatible with Dutch interests than are specific French or German interests. Thus supranationalism became a preoccupation of the Dutch within Europe, from the near unanimous motion in the Second Chamber to transfer powers to supranationalist institutions in 1948, to the conflict in 1991 between the Netherlands as temporary chairman of the EC and the British government about supranationalist tendencies in a Dutch draft for the Maastricht treaty. The Dutch insistence, since 1964, on a directly elected European Parliament with real powers should also be interpreted in this light.