In May 2017, German chancellor Angela Merkel told her supporters at an election rally that “the era in which we could fully rely on others is over to some extent.” Her comments were seen to reflect German, and wider European concerns that longheld certainties regarding the transatlantic relationship were expiring. She hinted that Europe should take care of its own security. President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about NATO and concerns that he might pull out of the alliance, his threat and use of tariffs against imports from Europe, and the unilateral withdrawal from a host of international agreements fuelled a debate about the need to develop ‘European strategic autonomy’ and intensify cooperation within Europe.
The Clingendael Foreign Affairs Barometer asked over 23,000 people in the Netherlands whether they should cooperate more with Germany and France, in light of Brexit and President Trump's America First policies. A large majority, 72 % of respondents, agreed. This can be interpreted as strong support in favour of developing deeper ties with Berlin and Paris. Only 10 % of respondents disagreed, while 18 % were neutral.
Should a ‘new Cold War’ emerge, the choice of the Dutch population is clear. Currently, only 5 per cent of Dutch respondents would choose China’s side, whereas 28 per cent would side with the United States. The largest group, however, would prefer to stay neutral (60 per cent). The large group of those preferring neutrality in a ‘new Cold War’ is telling. The Netherlands wants to avoid choosing sides, if possible. While absolute majorities in all age groups prefer neutrality, the sentiment is particularly strong among the younger generation (70 per cent of those younger than 35).
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