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The Netherlands and the Oil Crisis

The Netherlands and the Oil Crisis: Business as Usual

Duco Hellema
Cees Wiebes
Toby Witte
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Netherlands and the Oil Crisis
    Book Description:

    The Netherlands played a remarkable role during the October War and the oil crisis of 1973. In secret, the Dutch government sent a substantial amount of ammunition and spare parts to Israel. The Dutch supported Israel also politically. Within the EC they vetoed a more pro-Arab policy. The Arab oil producing countries punished The Netherlands by imposing an oil embargo. The embargo against the Netherlands was intimidating. The Netherlands was dependent on Arab oil. The embargo seemed to threaten the Dutch position in the international oil sector. The government introduced several measures to reduce oil consumption. However, within two months it became clear that oil continued to arrive in Rotterdam. There was in fact no oil shortage in the Netherlands. The Netherlands even profited from the oil crisis. The energy situation in The Netherlands was much better than in other West European countries. The Dutch, therefore, rejected French plans for a more interventionist energy policy. Atlanticism and liberalism were the key words of the Dutch policy during the oil crisis. This book is the result of intensive research in all relevant Dutch archives. The authors had free access to all the files they wanted to see. They also used resources from other countries involved. Many politicians were interviewed. The result is a surprising analysis of the oil crisis of 1973, and of the Dutch role in particular. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0364-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 9-12)
    Duco Hellema, Cees Wiebes and Toby Witte

    October 2003 marked the 30thanniversary of the Arab oil embargo levied against The Netherlands as a ‘punishment’ for its pro-Israeli stance in the October War. On October 6, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian troops attacked Israel in an attempt to regain the land occupied by Israel since 1967, and for several days the Israeli army had its back against the wall. In The Netherlands, the first reports of the war aroused great concern: Israel must be helped as in 1956 and in 1967.

    The Dutch government led by Prime Minister Joop den Uyl had been in power in The Netherlands...

  4. 1 War in the Middle East
    (pp. 13-40)

    On 6 Ocober 1973, large numbers of Egyptian and Syrian military units crossed the frontiers with Israel that had held since 1970. Around 240 Egyptian warplanes crossed radar installations. At the same time, some 1800 artillery and mortar positions opened up along the whole front and 700 Syrian tanks attacked the Golan Heights where the Israeli land forces had only been able to deploy some 150 tanks. Although reports had already been circulating throughout the summer of an Egyptian-Syrian attack, the Israeli army command appeared to be caught by surprise. It seems that they were only convinced that the threat...

  5. 2 Difficulties
    (pp. 41-72)

    In the years leading up to the 1973 war, the international oil sector had undergone structural shifts against the background of a world-wide increase in the demand for oil.¹ Oil production had also increased hugely, not least in the Arab countries. Between 1950 and 1973, oil extraction in the Middle East increased fourteen-fold.² Western Europe and Japan in particular had become increasingly dependent on Arab oil.

    The West European countries had become to a significant degree dependent on oil imports for both their energy production and their petro-chemical industries. In 1955, coal was still the most important energy source in...

  6. 3 European Divisions
    (pp. 73-96)

    By the end of October, the situation in the Middle East had still not stabilized. During the night of October 24/25, the Security Council had called on the belligerents to comply with a cease-fire demand and to withdraw to the positions of October 22. A day later Kurt Waldheim, the UN Secretary-General, submitted a plan to station a peace force of 7000 men in the conflict zone for a six-month period. The principal task of thisUnited Nations Emergency Forcewould be to ensure the cease-fire along the Suez Canal, and the withdrawal of all troops behind the lines occupied...

  7. 4 Domestic Measures
    (pp. 97-116)

    In October and November of 1973, The Netherlands was confronted with a series of threatening Arab moves. Following the drastic rise in the price of oil on October 16, came the decision of the Arab OPEC states a day later to reduce oil production by 5% each month as long as the Western countries continued to support Israel. Almost a week later, The Hague was confronted with a full embargo, even though in the end not all the Arab oil states joined in. On October 18 Saudi Arabia itself announced that oil production would not shrink by 5% but by...

  8. 5 A European Summit
    (pp. 117-156)

    The political divisions within the EC were further accentuated during November and December. France tried to exploit the crisis to press through a common EC energy policy and, moreover, with the support of London, to pursue a European-Arab dialogue. Washington also began to get more directly involved in managing the oil crisis. The differences between the Nine reached a climax during the EC Summit held in Copenhagen on December 14 and 15. Although there were also hopeful reports reaching The Hague, the situation for the Dutch during the weeks from November 6 to December 14 seemed worse than it had...

  9. 6 Rationing
    (pp. 157-190)

    In this chapter we shall turn our attention again to the policy adopted by the Dutch Cabinet to compensate for the reduction in the oil supply. We pick up the thread early in November, when the first restrictive measures were introduced to limit oil use. Throughout the course of November, assessments in The Hague of the consequences of the Arab oil actions became increasingly gloomy. This pessimism reached its peak at the end of the month when the possibility of a future reduction in the oil supply of some 40 to 50% was being discussed, even at the level of...

  10. 7 From Copenhagen to Washington
    (pp. 191-220)

    In this chapter we shall return to the international aspects of the oil crisis, to the stage after the failure of the European Summit of December 14 and 15 in Copenhagen. At that time, the predominant feeling in The Hague was of great uncertainty over the oil supply. Although it was clear by then that some oil companies were trying to share out the oil between European countries as equitably as possible, it was felt that the oil supply would remain uncertain for the immediate future. Seen in retrospect, December 1973 was the worst month for the oil supply. This...

  11. 8 Sweating it out
    (pp. 221-254)

    As we have emphasized several times, the oil crisis can be approached from different perspectives. In other words, the crisis had various aspects or, if you will, different levels. One important aspect was the relation between the West and the developing countries of the Third World, which had been affected by the crisis in various ways. On the one hand, rising oil prices threatened some developing countries – particularly the more industrialised among them – with ruinous debts; while, on the other hand, the performance of the OPEC countries on the international stage fostered a new self-awareness in the non-Western world. This...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 255-264)

    In many respects, The Netherlands came through the oil crisis rather well. The embargo soon proved ineffective, in the sense that Dutch oil imports at the end of 1973 were no more seriously depleted than those of other Western countries. Indeed, compared with several other West European countries, the oil supply to The Netherlands looked rather healthy. In a book on the oil crisis written from an Arab perspective, the conclusion was correctly drawn that ‘friendly states’ in Western Europe had suffered more from an embargo laid against The Netherlands than had The Netherlands itself.¹

    Through the months of October...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 265-296)
  14. Archival Records
    (pp. 297-300)
  15. List of Acronyms and Terms
    (pp. 301-303)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 304-312)
  17. Index of Names
    (pp. 313-315)
  18. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 316-320)