Dutch Backbencher Mounts Strong Challenge to Presumptive Party Leader

Pieter Omtzigt
Dutch Christian Democratic lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt speaks in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, January 27, 2017 (Council of Europe/Cathérine Monfils)

Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge faces unexpected competition from parliamentary backbencher Pieter Omtzigt in his bid for the leadership of the ruling Christian Democratic party.

Omtzigt won nearly 40 percent support from the party’s 40,000 members in a first voting round against 49 percent for De Jonge.

Monica Keijzer, the undersecretary for economic affairs and climate policy, and the only woman in the race, was eliminated after winning 11 percent.

A second voting round concludes on Wednesday. Read more “Dutch Backbencher Mounts Strong Challenge to Presumptive Party Leader”

Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid

Eugene Rhuggenaath Raymond Knops
Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao and Dutch state secretary Raymond Knops answer questions from reporters in The Hague, June 14, 2019 (ANP/Lex van Lieshout)

The prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have turned down conditions to qualify for as much as €1 billion in coronavirus aid from the European Netherlands. A cabinet meeting in The Hague on Friday, which the leaders of the three islands attended, failed to produce a compromise.

The Dutch have proposed appointing a three-person panel to oversee reforms to which the aid is tied. The Caribbean islands consider this an infringement of their autonomy.

Eugene Rhuggenaath, the prime minister of Curaçao, went so far as to accuse The Hague of having “an agenda for the takeover and control” of the islands, echoing the rhetoric of pro-independence parties that supported violent protests against spending cuts two weeks ago, which prompted the Dutch to deploy troops to support the local police. Read more “Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid”

Dutch Deploy Troops After Riots on Curaçao

Dutch frigate Zeeland
Dutch frigate HNLMS Zeeland on patrol in the Caribbean Sea (Ministerie van Defensie)

The Netherlands is deploying troops on Curaçao, one of the kingdom’s islands in the Caribbean, following several days of rioting and unrest.

The decision was taken with local police, who announced that, as a result of the deployment, a two-day curfew could be lifted on Friday. Read more “Dutch Deploy Troops After Riots on Curaçao”

Dutch Parties Try to Emerge from Rutte’s Shadow

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5, 2016 (European Parliament)

Parliamentary elections aren’t due in the Netherlands until March 2021, but now that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic appears to be behind the country, parties are starting to jockey for advantage.

Inside the ruling coalition, the three smaller parties are struggling to emerge from Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s shadow, whose liberal VVD is up from 33 to a projected 42-46 out of 150 seats. Rutte is drawing support from both the center-right and the far right.

Left-wing parties can barely get one in three voters between them. The far right has yet to top 20 percent support. The more interesting developments are in the center, where two parties could nominate female candidates for prime minister. Read more “Dutch Parties Try to Emerge from Rutte’s Shadow”

Dutch Terms for Caribbean Support Are Fair

Willemstad Curaçao
View down the Breedestraat in Willemstad, Curaçao (Unsplash/Lakeisha Bennett)

Politicians in the Dutch Caribbean have reluctantly agreed to spending reductions and reforms to qualify for €370 million in financial support from the European Netherlands:

  • 25-percent cut in the salaries of politicians.
  • 12.5-percent cut in the salaries of other public-sector workers.
  • Capping public-sector wages at 130 percent of the prime minister’s salary. (Such an income limit already exists in the European Netherlands.)
  • 20-percent contribution from firms to wage subsidies for the unemployed.
  • Oversight from the Dutch Central Bank in the financial industry of the islands.

With their tourism-dependent economies in free fall due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease, the leaders of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten felt they had no choice but to agree to what Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao called “unrealistic demands” and John Leerdam, a former Labor Party politician, who was born on Curaçao, called a “diktat” from The Hague.

But the terms (which do not apply to emergency food and health-care aid) still fall short of the more thorough and long-term reforms Dutch governments, of the left and right, have advised for years, in some cases decades:

Dutch Opposition to Eurobonds Is Not Unreasonable

Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte during a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 24, 2018 (Elysée)

If Italians and Spaniards are under the impression that the Netherlands is refusing to help them cope with the impact of coronavirus disease, their own leaders share the blame with the Dutch’s lack of tact.

Giuseppe Conte and Pedro Sánchez have unwisely elevated the one policy they should have known the Dutch could not accept into the test of European solidarity: eurobonds. Read more “Dutch Opposition to Eurobonds Is Not Unreasonable”

Dutch Senate Could Torpedo EU-Canada Trade Deal

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, June 13, 2018 (European Parliament/Genevieve Engel)

Dutch parliamentarians narrowly approved an EU trade agreement with Canada on Tuesday, but ratification of the treaty faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling parties do not have a majority.

If the pact isn’t supported by the Netherlands — one of the EU’s most liberal and free-trading nations — it would call the bloc’s ambition to uphold the global trade regime in lieu of American leadership into doubt.

Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the EU has completed free-trade agreements with Japan and South America. The first went into effect in 2019, the second has yet to be ratified. Read more “Dutch Senate Could Torpedo EU-Canada Trade Deal”

Rutte Finds Center-Right Majority in Upper Chamber

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)

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.

But this week, the government was able to pass environmental legislation with eight votes from the right, including three defectors from the far-right Forum for Democracy. Read more “Rutte Finds Center-Right Majority in Upper Chamber”

Dutch Parties Haven’t Lost Popularity in Pollution Crisis

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

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte appears to be weathering what he describes as the worst political crisis of his nine years in power.

Rutte’s four-party government has seen protests by builders and farmers against far-reaching plans to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution.

Now motorists are angry too. To cut emissions, the coalition has lowered the daytime speed limit on Dutch highways from 130 to 100 kilometers per hour. The measure is hugely unpopular in Rutte’s car-friendly liberal party.

Yet it remains faraway the largest in the polls and hasn’t lost support since the pollution crisis began. Read more “Dutch Parties Haven’t Lost Popularity in Pollution Crisis”

Happy Little Country

View of the Netherlands from the air
View of the Netherlands from the air (Skitterphoto)

The Dutch are happier than ever. Austerity is over. The immigration crisis has receded from the headlines. The government this week announced €3 billion in tax cuts and is planning a long-term investment fund worth up to €50 billion. Support for anti-establishment parties is down. Just 16 percent want to leave the EU anymore. Read more “Happy Little Country”