Dutch and Spanish Leaders Share Vision for EU

Mark Rutte Pedro Sánchez Charles Michel
Prime Ministers Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Pedro Sánchez of Spain speak with European Council president Charles Michel in Brussels, July 20, 2020 (European Council)

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 version of European “strategic autonomy” that is more liberal than Emmanuel Macron’s.

In a joint “non-paper“, the Dutch and Spanish leaders endorse strategic economy as a means to an end — growth and security — but not an end in itself. They caution it mustn’t become an excuse for isolation and protectionism. Read more “Dutch and Spanish Leaders Share Vision for EU”

Liberal Parties Look for Allies in Netherlands

Giuseppe Conte Mark Rutte
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is received by his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, in The Hague, July 10, 2020 (Palazzo Chigi)

Talks to form a coalition government are underway in the Netherlands, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte won the election on Wednesday but fell short of an overall majority.

Four parties will be needed to form a government. Rutte’s right-liberal VVD (of which I am a member) and Trade Minister Sigrid Kaag’s left-liberal D66 would be needed in almost any combination. The two have 58 seats. 76 are needed for majority. Read more “Liberal Parties Look for Allies in Netherlands”

Curaçao Election Result Will Set Off Alarm Bells in Netherlands

Willemstad Curaçao
Flag of Curaçao in Willemstad (iStock/Flavio Vallenari)

Two days after parliamentary elections in the European Netherlands, voters on Curaçao, one of the three autonomous Dutch islands in the Caribbean, went to the polls on Friday.

The result was a resounding victory for the populist Movement for the Future of Curaçao (MFK), led by Gilmar Pisas, which won nine out of 21 seats in the island Estates. Read more “Curaçao Election Result Will Set Off Alarm Bells in Netherlands”

Dutch Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next

Dutch parliament The Hague
Debate in the Dutch parliament in The Hague, March 15, 2020 (Tweede Kamer)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is on track to win reelection with projections giving his liberal VVD (of which I am a member) 36 out of 150 seats in parliament, up three.

The outcome is likely to be a center-right government of three or four parties.

If you haven’t been reading our live election blog, this explainer will get you up to speed on the results, takeaways and next steps. Read more “Dutch Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next”

Foreign Press Are Missing the Story in the Dutch Election

Mark Rutte
Prime Minister Mark Rutte answers questions from Dutch lawmakers in The Hague, September 17, 2020 (Tweede Kamer)

The big story in this year’s election in the Netherlands is that all parties, including the ruling VVD (of which I am a member), have moved to the left. As a result, there is broad consensus for deficit spending, far-reaching climate legislation, closer defense integration in Europe, more central government involvement in housing and raising corporate tax.

Not all foreign media have noticed. Many are still obsessed with yesterday’s story: the far right. Read more “Foreign Press Are Missing the Story in the Dutch Election”

Rutte Wins Dutch Election, Pro-EU Party Places Second

  • Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD placed first in parliamentary elections in the Netherlands on Wednesday but fell short of a majority.
  • Three or four parties will be needed to form a coalition government.
  • The social-liberal and pro-European D66, which has governed with Rutte since 2017, placed second, pushing Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) into third place.
  • The combined populist right would win more seats than the Labor Party, Greens and far-left Socialists combined. New parties on the left made gains. Read more “Rutte Wins Dutch Election, Pro-EU Party Places Second”

Dutch Election Guide

The Hague Netherlands
Mauritshuis and Dutch government buildings in The Hague, June 11, 2018 (Shutterstock/DigitalPearls)

Parliamentary elections are held in the Netherlands on Wednesday. I’ll be live-blogging the results and takeaways that day. In the meantime, this explainer will get you up to speed. Read more “Dutch Election Guide”

Rutte Is More Pro-EU Than His Critics Allow

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

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”

Dutch Should Keep Health Care System They Have

Leiden Netherlands hospital
Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands (LUMC)

Nearly all political parties in the Netherlands call for more government in health care.

The far-left Socialists and Greens would replace private health insurers with public health funds. Labor would keep the insurance companies but take away their power to negotiate prices with health providers. The Christian Democrats and far-right Freedom Party want to end competition between hospitals. Even the center-right VVD believes liberalization has gone too far.

I’m a member of the VVD, but on this point I disagree. (So I’m glad there are few concrete proposals to reverse liberalizations in the VVD’s manifesto.) The Dutch health-care system is one of the best in the world. In a column for Trouw, I challenge the parties that want to uproot it to point to a better example. If there isn’t one, let’s keep the system we have. Read more “Dutch Should Keep Health Care System They Have”

Financial Times Smears Netherlands’ Rutte as Bigot

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives in Brussels to meet with other European leaders, February 12, 2015 (European Council)

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 give up their passport, 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 every week on a middle school in an immigrant neighborhood of The Hague.

He demanded an apology from Wilders for his infamous 2014 election promise to get “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands. Far from apologize, Wilders said he wanted fewer Somalians and fewer 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, as he has for years, 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.

I don’t know if the author, Mehreen Khan, speaks Dutch, but it doesn’t sound like she listened to the debate. Read more “Financial Times Smears Netherlands’ Rutte as Bigot”