Students get a look behind the scenes at the Ministry of Finance
‘Europe plays an important role in our work within the Ministry of Finance, and it will only become more so in the future.’ With this message, Treasurer-General of the Ministry of Finance Christiaan Rebergen greeted the international group of master’s students from the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE).
A delegation of EU staff from the Dutch Ministry of Finance recently paid a visit to Maastricht. In cooperation with Studio Europa Maastricht and SBE, they gave the students a look behind the scenes at the ministry. How do ministry officials monitor and balance Dutch interests, policies and priorities? How is the budget monitored? And what about taxes and own funding in the EU? During two guest lectures and a simulation game, students were introduced to the Dutch position in the EU from a financial perspective.
EU institutions and budgets
EU policy advisers Stijn van Hooff and Steven Fagel started the day with a refresher session before going into any depth. ‘Always good to check how much people already know’, Stijn said. The knowledge level of these students was pretty good. Together they quickly managed to name the most recently joined member states (Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria) and which EU countries don’t use the euro (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden and Denmark).
Stijn and Steven then discussed the role and interests of the Netherlands in the EU and the functioning of the EU institutions. They then also covered some concrete European financial topics, such as the EU Customs Union, which deals with imports and exports, and European budget rules.
The main topic in the morning, however, was the European multiannual budget. ‘Everything we do in the EU costs money in the end’, explained Stijn and Steven. Whether it is NextGenerationEU (the economic recovery plan for the COVID-19 crisis), clean energy or agricultural subsidies. The EU’s finances are part of multi-year agreements between EU countries known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) or Europe’s multi-year budget. The main questions are always: who pays for what? And where should most of the money go?
To make it easier to understand how Eu budget planning works in practice, the students played a negotiation game in which they simulated what negotiations for the European Union’s multiannual budget look like. It was a good time for this. ‘We are already preparing for the negotiations for the 2028-2034 multiannual budget’, Steven explained. In reality, negotiations take place years in advance and many parties are involved.
During the simulation, groups of students represented different EU member states. After extensive study of the positions of the countries and regions they represented, the students were not only able to defend their positions, they also had to respond to the proposals made by the president based on their requests. Most important? Working it out together – unanimously. ‘Every time we play this game, there is a different outcome’, said one of the ministry officials. ‘It is very interesting for us to see as well.’
From long-term budgets to taxes for multinationals
During lunch, the young people had the chance to talk one-on-one with the staff. How do they influence policy? How do they prepare for European ministerial meetings? What career opportunities are available within the Ministry of Finance? It was a good opportunity to network and share information.
Those who thought that the Netherlands Tax Administration is only active within Dutch borders were mistaken. During their lecture in the afternoon, Bert Koster and Albert Imming, strategy advisors on international affairs for the Dutch Ministry of Finance and the Netherlands Tax Administration, talked about their work from an international perspective. They discussed relevant developments in taxation and fiscal administration on a European and global scale. Why and from what perspectives is the Netherlands Tax Administration involved and active internationally? What does their work look like when it comes to international data exchange between tax administrations and the taxation of multinational companies? And why is this important for the Netherlands?
The day provided indispensable insights into real-life practice; not only for the master’s students of SBE, but also for the Dutch Ministry of Finance staff. The students’ open-minded attitude provided them with new knowledge; for example, which topics and themes do the students prioritise when it comes to spending money. (For this group is was less money to European public administration.) And for the students? For them, the complicated story about EU finances is now a lot less complex. The biggest lesson: in the end, you must figure it out together.
Photos of the day
Are you curious about opportunities within the Dutch Ministry of Finance?
Then take a look at these traineeship and internship opportunities (in Dutch).