Netherlands “Obstructive” in Europe, Rutte “Impotent”

European officials criticize the “obstructive” role Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte plays.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands inspects an honor guard in Moscow, Russia, October 19, 2011
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands inspects an honor guard in Moscow, Russia, October 19, 2011 (Rijksoverheid)

The Netherlands is seen as an obstructive European Union member state. Diplomats tell the Dutch daily de Volkskrant that Prime Minister Mark Rutte is “scared” of his own parliament.

The officials, who all spoke with the paper anonymously, vehemently criticized Rutte for the “pernicious” role he plays in European Council summits:

Rutte doesn’t want a constitutional debate. He’s simply put a cross behind the words “solidarity” and “sovereignty”. Then you’re done talking in Brussels because that’s what it’s all about.

Whether it’s the Netherlands’ reluctance to finance European bailout funds, its opposition to raising the European Commission’s budget or allowing Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen Area customs union, other nations are frustrated with its intransigence and Euroskepticism.

Wilders’ puppet

Said one ambassador, “Rutte seems an impotent and scared premier. Time and again, he bleats during EU summits, ‘I cannot go against the wishes of my parliament.’ Other leaders get the impression that he’s Wilders’ puppet.”

Until April of this year, Geert Wilders’ nationalist Freedom Party backed Rutte’s coalition government. It calls for an exit from the EU.

Dutch influence

For all the criticism, it does not appear that Dutch influence in Brussels has suddenly waned.

Previous Dutch governments also opposed Bulgarian and Romanian membership of the customs union until they tackled corruption and improved border controls. The European Commission eventually came around to the Dutch position.

The executive similarly embraced a Dutch proposal to allow Ollie Rehn, the economic and monetary affairs commissioner, to penalize eurozone countries that break the bloc’s debt and deficit rules.

Euroskepticism

Public sentiment in the Netherlands is turning against the European project.

The two most Euroskeptic parties could gain up to a third of the seats in the new parliament, according to recent polls.

Rutte’s own liberals, who will likely remain in government, are struggling to convince right-wing voters that they too are reluctant to bail out weaker euro states.

European mandarins denouncing their party leader as “obstructive” probably won’t hurt his popularity at home.

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