Don’t Fear Dutchification

Dutch government buildings in The Hague, March 29, 2015
Dutch government buildings in The Hague, March 29, 2015 (Pixabay/Unsplash)

The Financial Times argues that the big political story in Europe is not so much the rise of populism as the fragmentation of electorates and the parties that represent them.

  • In Spain, the once-dominant conservative and socialist parties must compete with liberals, nationalists and the far left.
  • Neither the center-left nor the center-right bloc has a majority in the Swedish parliament anymore and neither is willing to allow the far-right Sweden Democrats to become kingmakers.
  • The far-right Alternative and the left-leaning Greens have eaten into support for the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in Germany.
  • In what the Financial Times describes as “the most extreme example of such fragmentation,” the Netherlands, it now takes four parties to form a government.

This isn’t wrong per se, but I would like to offer two nuances. Read more

Dutch Lead Resistance to Macron’s Eurozone Budget

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte greets Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė in The Hague, June 21, 2017
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte greets Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė in The Hague, June 21, 2017 (Presidency of Lithuania/Robertas Dačkus)

The Netherlands is resisting the creation of a common eurozone budget, a French proposal that was endorsed by German chancellor Angela Merkel this week.

In a letter seen by the Financial Times, the Dutch finance minister, Wopke Hoekstra, warns that there is “wide divergence” among member states on the need for any budget.

He is supported by eleven other countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden. Read more

Dutch Hear Pro-EU Speech from Rutte, Others Hear Ambivalence

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, June 13
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, June 13 (European Parliament/Genevieve Engel)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte’s speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday was reported widely differently in the press.

Whereas Dutch media led with the mildly Euroskeptic Rutte’s defense of European integration, reporters from other countries prioritized his opposition to higher EU spending. Read more

EU Policy Recommendations for Biggest Member States

Flags of the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016
Flags of the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016 (European Commission)

The European Commission has released its annual policy recommendations for the 28 member states.

Here are the highlights for the biggest economies on the continent. Read more

Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute

A cruise ship moored in Willemstad, Curaçao
A cruise ship moored in Willemstad, Curaçao (Shutterstock/Galina Savina)

The Dutch Caribbean have been caught up in a legal dispute between the American oil company ConocoPhillips and the government of Venezuela.

A judge has allowed Conoco to seize Venezuelan-owned and -operated refineries on the islands in order to collect $2 billion in compensation awarded by the International Chamber of Commerce for the 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets in the socialist-run country.

The seizure poses a “potential crisis” to the economy of Curaçao, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has told Reuters. The Isla refinery, which processes 335,000 barrels of oil per day, accounts for a tenth of the island’s economy. Read more

Rutte Survives Tax Debacle, Middle America Not Doing So Badly

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in parliament in The Hague, November 13, 2012
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in parliament in The Hague, November 13, 2012 (Rijksoverheid)

The Netherlands’ Mark Rutte has been reprimanded by opposition parties for failing to disclose memos to parliament about internal government deliberations over the repeal of a business tax.

Rutte claimed he had not been aware of the papers, which were drafted by the Finance Ministry during the formation of his current government. The four parties in his coalition, which have a one-seat majority, accepted this explanation. All opposition parties but one voted to censure him.

Rutte surprised other parties by eliminating the dividend tax when he returned to power in October. Repeal had not been part of his election program. The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell — two of the Netherlands’ largest companies — lobbied him to eliminate the tax. Read more

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

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is received by Jan Peumans, the speakers of the Flemish parliament, in Brussels, October 15, 2015
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is received by Jan Peumans, the speakers of the Flemish parliament, in Brussels, October 15, 2015 (Vlaams Parlement)

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 doubted the tax played a major role in multinationals’ 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 this one.

Except this was by far the most controversial policy of the new government. None of the governing 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