Less than a year ago, Mark Rutte and Pedro Sánchez were on opposite ends of the debate about the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund. Sánchez and other Southern European leaders called for grants financed by EU-issued bonds. Rutte and his allies preferred loans. The two sides eventually split the difference.
Now the two prime ministers, one center-right, the other center-left, have made common cause for a vision of European “strategic autonomy” that is more liberal than Emmanuel Macron’s.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is criticized from the left and center for failing to make the argument for the EU integration in his reelection campaign.
The Financial Times, which a few days ago selectively quoted from Rutte’s televised debate with far-right leader Geert Wilders to make him and not Wilders out to be the bigot, has listened to his critics and concluded that Rutte is following, rather than leading, Dutch public opinion on the EU.
That’s hardly an outrage in a democracy, but I don’t think it tells the whole story. The prime minister who once promised to give “not one cent more” to Greece (and then agreed to another bailout) has become more pragmatic about European integration. Read more “Rutte Is More Pro-EU Than His Critics Allow”
In an hour-long election debate with Geert Wilders on Thursday night, Prime Minister Mark Rutte took his far-right opponent to task for treating nonnative Dutch as second-class citizens. He pointed out that Wilders wants to ban the Quran, close mosques and deny voting rights to dual citizens.
Because Morocco won’t allow even the descendants of Moroccan nationals to renounce their citizenship, Wilders’ proposal would disenfranchise some 400,000 Dutch citizens, including the speaker of parliament, Khadija Arib.
It is a plainly racist proposal, and Rutte called Wilders out on it — thrice. He asked Wilders to consider the effect of his rhetoric on the hundreds of thousands of Dutch Muslims of good will, not in the least children, some of whom Rutte teaches civics and sociology every week on a middle school in an immigrant neighborhood of The Hague.
He demanded an apology from Wilders for his infamous promise to voters in 2014 that he would arrange for there to be “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands. Far from apologize, Wilders said he wanted fewer Somalians and Syrians as well, and he accused the liberal party leader of presiding over the “destruction” of the Netherlands by admitting so many non-Western immigrants.
Rutte, once again, ruled out forming a coalition government with Wilders’ Freedom Party.
Here is how the Financial Times summarizes the exchange:
Rutte … felt compelled to insist that he wasn’t in fact a Muslim — twice. Ahead of the debate, Rutte told [de] Volkskrant he was ready to seal Dutch borders in the face of another EU migrant crisis and declared the country’s values “nonnegotiable” for foreigners.
Rutte’s preternatural ability to pander to the far right is part of the reason he is a shoo-in to keep his job for the next four years.
Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte belong to the same European liberal family, but they take different views on the future of the liberal world order.
The French president believes Europe should become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade. He argues for “strategic autonomy” in everything from the digital economy to defense to environmental policy.
The Dutch prime minister has doubts, rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of overseas trade.
Both have allies.
Macron has the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister.
Rutte is backed by smaller countries in Central and Northern Europe as well others in the European Commission. The Financial Times reports that plenty suspect “strategic autonomy” is a fancy way to dress up French protectionism; are wary of formally endorsing the principle if it means undermining NATO and open trade; and are skeptical of the push for reshoring of industry and supply chains.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has taken a hard line in Brussels on the conditions of coronavirus aid to Southern Europe, but at home his government has abandoned austerity without controversy.
During the last economic crisis, Rutte, who has led the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy since 2006, raised taxes and cut public spending to keep the Netherlands’ budget deficit under the EU’s 3-percent ceiling.
Now, when the economic contraction caused by COVID-19 is even more severe, he is borrowing €56 billion, or 7.2 percent of GDP. Debt as a share of economic output is projected to rise from 49 to 61 percent.
Statism is back in a country that is (or used to be) considered a champion of liberalization and free trade.
John F. Harris argues in Politico that the center-right anti-Trump movement could outlive the president and make common cause with the center-left.
Both oppose efforts to stifle free thinking and the bullying of those who dissent from ideological or racial orthodoxy, he writes.
James Bennet was recently fired as opinion editor of The New York Times for publishing an incendiary op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton. A Boeing spokesman resigned over an article he wrote 33 years ago, as a young Navy lieutenant, in which he argued against women in combat. There are countless other examples of Americans losing their jobs for holding the “wrong” opinion or for merely giving a platform to the wrong opinion.
“If we lived under some fickle absolutist king, who arbitrarily decided what was offensive, outrageous or even criminal, we’d all recognize the illiberalism of it,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his newsletter. “But when a mob arbitrarily rules the same way, we call it social justice.”
The pro-Trump right loves to hate on left-wing cancel culture, yet they have purged many Trump critics from conservative media, organizations and think tanks. Under the guise of free speech, Trump wants the federal government, not social-media companies, to decide what the likes of Facebook and Twitter can publish. So much for free enterprise. (And have Republicans considered what a Democratic administration might do with such power?)
Traditional conservatives and liberals also share an interest in propping up institutions, which the Bernie Sanders left and the Trump right agree are beyond repair. The far left wants to abolish the Electoral College, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and in some cases the police. The far right wants to uproot the media, universities and the Washington “deep state”. The center-left and center-right argue for reform.
Harris wonders if the alliance will endure beyond the election:
Once Trump leaves, so too will the incentives that drove liberals and conservatives together in opposition.
A split on the Dutch far right has given Prime Minister Mark Rutte an alternative to doing deals with left-wing opposition parties in the upper house of parliament.
The four ruling center-right parties lost their majority in the Senate in May, going down from 38 to 32 out of 75 seats. It looked like they would need the opposition Labor Party or Greens for a majority, who were looking forward to exchanging their support for more left-wing policies.