Rutte Cornered on Tax Cut, Why France and Germany Treat Trump Differently

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answer questions from reporters in The Hague, April 19
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answer questions from reporters in The Hague, April 19 (NATO)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is in trouble. When his latest government, a coalition of Christian and liberal parties, came to power in October, he claimed there was no paperwork to support its contention that the Netherlands needed to eliminate dividend tax altogether in order to remain competitive. Now it turns out the Finance Ministry did write a series of memos on the topic — and was doubtful the tax played a major role in companies’ decisionmaking.

The Finance Ministry produces a lot of memos when political parties are negotiating to form a government, so it is possible that Rutte didn’t see these.

Except this was by far the most controversial policy of the new government. None of the four parties had promised to cut dividend tax in their manifestos. There had been no public debate about it.

The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell lobbied to get the tax removed.

Opposition parties have already called on Rutte to step down. That is unlikely. Prime minister since 2010, Rutte has a knack for talking his way out of problems and the ruling parties have no incentive to force him out. Read more

Rutte Urges EU Pragmatism, May’s Speech Heard Very Differently in Europe

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called for pragmatism in a speech in Berlin in Friday. The best way to take the wind out of the sails of Euroskeptic parties, he said, is to show results:

Lofty visions do not create jobs or security. Nor does shouting from the ends of the political spectrum. Only hard work […] produces results that benefit people in their daily lives.

The Merkelian rhetoric is a reality check for French president Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed far-reaching reforms in Europe.

With Britain, traditionally an ally, leaving the bloc, the Netherlands is becoming more vocal in resisting what it — and the German right — fear would amount to transfer union: the permanent subsidization of poorer member states by the wealthy.

There was a discrepancy in coverage. Dutch media emphasized the many positive things Rutte said about the EU. Foreign outlets focused on his “red lines”. The reason is that Rutte is considered more of a Euroskeptic at home than he is abroad. Read more

Netherlands Has Responsibility to Lead After Brexit: Rutte

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016 (European Parliament)

The Netherlands has a responsibility to lead after Brexit and worries that Germany is putting too much faith in “more Europe”, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said.

In an interview with the Sunday morning talk show Buitenhof, the liberal party leader pointed out that he had recently held summits with other Benelux nations, the Balts, Central Europeans and Nordics.

Unusually, he took a stab at Germany, where the next government is expected to be more integrationist.

“Of course, Germany can transfer more money to Europe,” Rutte said in jest. “I have no objection to that. We take a different view.” Read more

Brexit and Fear of Populism Inform Rutte’s Opposition to Macron

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is greeted by German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 7
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is greeted by German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 7 (Bundesregierung)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is leading the opposition to Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for closer European integration, warning a liberal conference in Amsterdam this weekend that “integration for integration’s sake” will undermine public support for the EU.

“The EU needs to solve problems that we, as individual member states, cannot solve alone,” he said. “A federal Europe is not the answer to those problems and neither is a politics based on symbolism.”

There are two reasons Rutte is skeptical of Macron’s ideas, which range from creating a common eurozone budget to harmonizing tax rates and social security fees: fear of anti-EU populism and Brexit. Read more

Optimist Rutte Asks Dutch to Reject Rival’s Pessimism

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is photographed in his residence in The Hague, September 19, 2011
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is photographed in his residence in The Hague, September 19, 2011 (Rijksoverheid)

International coverage of Mark Rutte’s reelection campaign in the Netherlands has largely emphasized the ways in which he emulates Geert Wilders.

This report from The New York Times is a typical example. It claims the liberal premier has taken a “Trump-like turn” in the face of a “hard-right challenge”, siding with the “silent majority” in his country against non-natives.

It’s a little over the top but not altogether wrong. Rutte’s center-right party has adopted more repressive immigration and integration policies. It has also become more Euroskeptic since Wilders started out a decade ago.

But it’s not the whole story. Read more

Rutte Cautions Against Populist “Experiment” in Netherlands

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives for a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, February 12, 2015
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives for a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, February 12, 2015 (European Council)

Two days before parliamentary elections, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has reiterated his opposition to a pact with the nationalist Freedom Party, telling Geert Wilders in person that the two will “never” work together again.

Earlier on Monday, Rutte urged voters not to let the Netherlands become the “third domino” that falls to populism after Britain voted to leave the European Union and America elected Donald Trump.

“This is not the time to experiment,” he told reporters in Rotterdam. Read more

Rutte Wins If Dutch Vote with Their Pocketbooks

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016 (European Parliament)

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party would benefit from switching the election debate in the Netherlands to the economy, on which it is trusted the most.

Cultural and social issues, like immigration, pensions and security, currently play a major role. Read more