The Dutch economic interest in investing in nature
The Netherlands, like Germany, Sweden and Austria, is a major net payer to the EU Budget. In 2010, Netherlands paid (net) EUR 3.6 billion to the EU Budget. Its net paying position gives Netherlands a key role in the EU budget debate. The Dutch position towards the EU budget is characterised by the desire to ensure that EU policies finance those sectors and regions that need it the most and to ensure as much efficiency and effectiveness of financial investments.
The environment plays a key role in the Dutch economy especially within the agriculture sector where it directly or indirectly makes up 10% of the Dutch economy according to the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. In 2010, the Netherlands received EUR 1.85 billion of EU money of which EUR 1.01 billion (55%) was spent on agriculture policy. This was above the EU average of 49%.
The awareness for environmental issues is relatively high in the Netherlands, including the willingness to pay for the environment. The Netherlands has, in the past, invested in nature, such as in ecological infrastructure throughout agriculture landscapes. Over the last years, these investments have been beneficial for biodiversity conservation. However, due to the current financial crisis, the Dutch government axed its national environmental funding line.
The current public debt crisis in the EU and the Netherlands’ contribution to it, however, will clearly limit the availability of Dutch public funds for the environment. At the same time, it is an opportunity for a debate on the most efficient and wise use of taxpayers’ money and for the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies.