Breakthrough in Dutch Coalition Talks

Sigrid Kaag
Dutch trade minister Sigrid Kaag speaks at an EU-Japan conference, February 7, 2019 (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

Six and a half months after they were elected, Dutch lawmakers have finally taken a step closer to forming a coalition government: the same as the last one.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member), the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Christian Union were ready to renew their vows after the election in March. The coalition as a whole had gained seats, although the CDA lost four. The center-right parties are aligned on agriculture and EU policy, health care and taxes.

Their fourth partner, the social-liberal D66, needed more time. Read more “Breakthrough in Dutch Coalition Talks”

Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained

Eemshaven Netherlands power plant
Power plant in the Eemshaven of the Netherlands, April 17, 2020 (Unsplash/Untitled Photo)

Electricity prices are hitting records across Europe. In Portugal and Spain, wholesale energy prices have tripled from half a year ago to €178 per megawatt-hour. Italy is not far behind at €176. Dutch households without a fixed-price contract could end up paying €500 more this year. In the UK, prices peaked at €247 per megawatt-hour earlier this week.

The main culprit is the high price of natural gas, up 440 percent from a year ago. But Europe is facing something of a perfect storm involving accidents, depleted reserves and a higher carbon price.

Here are all the reasons prices are up — and what governments are doing about it. Read more “Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained”

Curaçao Accepts Dutch Supervision of Economic Reforms

Willemstad Curaçao
Aerial view of Willemstad, Curaçao (iStock/Texpan)

The new government of Curaçao has accepted Dutch supervision of economic reforms it is due to carry out as part of a COVID-19 rescue plan.

Parties led by Gilmar Pisas won the election in March on a promise to oppose supervision.

The now-prime minister defended his about-face by arguing Curaçao was with its “back against the wall.”

Which was the same argument his predecessor, Eugene Rhuggenaath, made in the election campaign, when Pisas rejected it. Read more “Curaçao Accepts Dutch Supervision of Economic Reforms”

Why It’s Taking So Long to Form a Government in the Netherlands

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte welcomes Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko at his residence in The Hague, November 26, 2015 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine/Mykola Lazarenko)

Five months after parliamentary elections, parties haven’t even begun substantive coalition talks in the Netherlands, already making this the third-longest government formation in postwar Dutch history.

Mark Rutte remains in office as caretaker prime minister, but his government can’t make major decisions on such issues as climate policy, reform of child benefits, labor law and taxes.

Those issues are one reason it’s taking so long: whatever choices the next government makes could reverberate for years. Read more “Why It’s Taking So Long to Form a Government in the Netherlands”

American Health Care Is Worst in Rich World

Empire State Building New York
The Empire State Building in Manhattan, NewYork behind the light of an emergency vehicle, June 9, 2016 (Unsplash/Dapo Oni)

America has the worst health-care system of eleven rich nations.

The Commonwealth Fund, a century-old foundation dedicated to improving health care, places the United States behind Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in its latest report. The Netherlands and Norway share first place.

America is the world’s top innovator of new medications and treatments. The best medical schools are in the United States. The country spends relatively more on preventative care than most. But this doesn’t outweigh its poor scores on the Commonwealth Fund’s other criteria: access to care, administrative efficiency, equity and outcomes.

In practical terms, this means especially low-income Americans don’t get the health care they need, either because it’s too expensive, too complex or both. Preventable deaths, including infant and maternal mortality, are higher in the United States than in other wealthy countries. Life expectancy is lower.

The Commonwealth Fund’s findings match those of the Euro Health Consumer Index, OECD, Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rank the United States below Australia, Canada and most countries in Europe. Read more “American Health Care Is Worst in Rich World”

Splits on the Right Force Rutte to Consider Coalition with the Left

Dutch parliament
Chamber of the Dutch parliament in The Hague, April 8, 2020 (Tweede Kamer)

The Netherlands has broken a century-old record: seventeen parties won seats in the election in March, the highest since 1918, but defections from the centrist Christian Democrats and far-right Forum for Democracy would make this parliament the most fragmented since the year women got the vote.

Pieter Omtzigt, who narrowly lost an internal election for the Christian Democratic leadership a year ago, has resigned from the party. He now sits as an independent.

Wybren van Haga, who left Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member) in 2019 to join Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, has split again and formed a new right-wing party with Olaf Ephraim and Hans Smolders. The three were appalled when Baudet compared the COVID-19 lockdown to the wartime Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

The defections make it even harder for Rutte to avoid forming a coalition with the left. Read more “Splits on the Right Force Rutte to Consider Coalition with the Left”

Judges Need to Know Their Place

Supreme Court The Hague Netherlands
Seat of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in The Hague, February 3, 2016 (Rijksvastgoedbedrijf/Bas Kijzers)

European judges have discovered they can compel politicians to take action against climate change.

France’s Council of State has given the government of Emmanuel Macron an April 2022 deadline (one month before the election) to ensure the country will meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.

Germany’s Constitutional Court issued a similar ruling in April and gave the government an end-of-year deadline to update its policy.

A Dutch court has gone further, ordering Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, to reduce not just its own carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent but those of its customers and suppliers as well.

It’s like we’re living in a kritocracy. Read more “Judges Need to Know Their Place”

Swedish Housing Crisis Has Similarities with Netherlands

Stockholm Sweden
Strandvägen boulevard in Stockholm, Sweden (iStock/Alexis Gonzalez)

Stefan Löfven may be Europe’s first prime minister brought down by a housing crisis, but he is unlikely to be the last.

Löfven, a social democrat, lost the support of the far left over a proposal to allow landlords to freely set rents for newly-built apartments.

Rents in Sweden are usually negotiated between landlords and tenants’ associations.

Other countries struggle to find the right balance between public and private in housing too. Berlin instituted a citywide rent freeze last year, but it was struck down as unconstitutional by Germany’s highest court. Spain’s central government is challenging a Catalan rent cap. Authorities in Barcelona want to extend a moratorium on evictions that has been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But perhaps the best comparison is with the Netherlands, which organizes public housing in much the same way as Sweden. Read more “Swedish Housing Crisis Has Similarities with Netherlands”

Dutch Likely to Reverse Labor Market Liberalizations

Amsterdam Netherlands
Bicycle traffic in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Unsplash/Noralí Nayla)

Pressure is mounting on the Dutch government to reverse liberalizations in the labor market.

The OECD, a club of 38 wealthy nations, has endorsed a call by Dutch employers and trade unions to encourage the use of permanent contracts.

But where the OECD prioritizes reforms to make it cheaper and easier to hire workers full-time, the Netherlands’ own Social and Economic Council (SER), in which trade associations and labor groups are represented, would make temporary and part-time work more expensive.

The divide is mirrored in Dutch politics: Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member) and the centrist Christian Democrats would reduce the cost of regular employment for businesses. The Labor Party and Greens would rein in zero-hours and freelance contracts. All four may be needed to form a government. Read more “Dutch Likely to Reverse Labor Market Liberalizations”

Dutch Right Alarmed as Left Needed to Form Government

The Hague Netherlands
Dutch government offices and parliament buildings in The Hague (iStock/Fotolupa)

The left lost the election in the Netherlands but is winning the battle to form the next coalition government, argues conservative commentator Syp Wynia.

Labor, the far-left Socialist Party and the Greens fell to a combined 26 out of 150 seats in the election in March, down from a recent peak of 65 seats in 2006 and fewer than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member), which won 34 seats.

Mariëtte Hamer, a former Labor Party leader and head of the Social and Economic Council, in which employers and trade unions negotiate industrial relations, is nevertheless exploring a centrist coalition in her role as informateur that would involve both Labor and the Greens — to the rising consternation of the right. Read more “Dutch Right Alarmed as Left Needed to Form Government”