The technocrat who needs to win back trust

Henry

The Netherlands will soon have a new government with a new technocratic prime minister, new ministers and a complicated attempt to steer the country on a different route. Can this small, but also influential, prosperous and until recently globalist-minded country take a new political direction over the next year or two that meets the needs of a majority of its citizens?

After fourteen years as Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte will soon vacate “Het Torentje” – that is the name of the prime minister’s office located next to the Hofvijver lake in the center of The Hague and which dates back to the early 1300s.

Rutte, a globalist and strongly pro-European politician who for the past 14 years has continuously tried to govern the Netherlands as part of a larger European and global whole in terms of his domestic and foreign policy, will move to Brussels later this year where he will be secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will become.

Dutch voters sent a clear message to politicians last November that they want a stronger emphasis on the interests of the Dutch and less emphasis on the interests of Europe, or indeed the Netherlands’ role in the larger European project. Some call it a shift to the right, others a push back towards nationalism, but in reality it is simply an indication that Dutch voters, like voters in most Western countries, place greater emphasis on their own sovereignty, the rights of citizens instead of immigrants, and want a healthy balance between national interest and international participation.

New kind of politics with new leaders

The four coalition parties who recently, after almost six months of negotiations, published a 26-page government agreement, surprised last week with the announcement that Dick Schoof, currently the director general of the Department of Justice in the Netherlands, is their choice for the will be next prime minister.

The four coalition parties include the right-wing Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) of Geert Wilders, Rutte’s classically liberal Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Demokratie (VVD) which is now led by the Turkish-born but more conservative Dilan Yeşilgöz, who is currently also minister of justice. led, the Nieuw Sociaal Contract (NSC) of the former Christian Democrat and long-time member of parliament Pieter Omtzigt, and the centre-right BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) ​​of Caroline van der Plas, which especially stands up for the rights of rural communities, farmers and smaller entrepreneurs.

Although Wilders, whose party finished comfortably first in November, wanted to become prime minister, the VVD and NSC were outspokenly against it. Finally, the leaders of the four parties agreed that none of them would serve in a new cabinet and that all four would therefore return to parliament (Second Chamber) after the formation of a new government to lead their parties’ caucuses there. .

The NSC in particular insisted on a technocratic prime minister who stands further away from the political parties in the coalition. After much controversy, the four parties surprised the past week with the nomination of Schoof as prime minister. Schoof has decades of experience in government administration where he has held various roles in government departments and agencies, such as the Dutch intelligence services and counter-terrorism agency.

In his current role as the most senior bureaucrat in the Department of Justice, Schoof has in recent years been responsible for, among other things, elements of the implementation of the Netherlands’ immigration policy, as well as the controversial centralization of the Dutch police force in 2012 into one national force, away from the previously decentralized nature of law enforcement.

Schoof is clearly an experienced bureaucrat who has been able to work successfully with various politicians and leaders over decades. Over the past fourteen years, he has at times advised Rutte on national security issues. Schoof himself was a registered member of the centre-left Partij voor de Arbeid (PvdA) until a few years ago, but resigned from the party because he felt that the party no longer corresponded to his own principles.

Wilders probably agreed to Schoof’s nomination under pressure from the VVD and NSC because Wilders is desperate to see the PVV as part of a successful government. It has been Wilders’ dream for years to govern and to prove to the Dutch that the PVV, which is mostly dismissed in the media as an extremist party, can be part of a good and stable government.

Schoof’s challenge will now be to carry out the government agreement of the four coalition parties, without him having much political experience. The new cabinet, which will be announced soon, will include ministers from all four coalition parties, as well as persons outside politics. Schoof will have a huge task to make this cabinet work together efficiently, while instructions will actually come from the leaders of the four coalition partners. The most complicated relationship will probably be that between Schoof and Wilders.

However, it will require exceptional political skills from Schoof, Wilders and the leaders of the other coalition parties, as well as a diverse cabinet, to not only carry out the government agreement, but also to carry out difficult decisions, the trust of a majority of Dutch people retain voters, withstand the bloodthirsty attacks of the left-wing opposition and successfully renegotiate and repackage the Netherlands’ role in Europe with the European Union and other countries in Europe.

All this must happen at a time when the war in Ukraine, economic challenges in Europe, population aging, continuous influx of immigrants and the Islamization of large parts of Dutch cities are already creating huge challenges.

Voters in the Netherlands voted last year in favor of a sharp decrease in immigration. This means that illegal immigrants must be deported more quickly, that the influx of asylum seekers must be dramatically reduced and legal immigration must also be curtailed.

They also voted against excessive climate rules that have seriously harmed the agriculture, fishing and construction industries in particular in recent years. Voters want to see that the balance between cities and countryside is restored and that the Dutch countryside receives greater support, especially with public services such as transport, the police and medical services.

The Dutch are strongly pro-Europe and within limits also in favor of the European Union and the Netherlands’ membership of the EU. However, a majority of Dutch people want to see EU member states gain greater sovereignty again and that the EU’s powers and role are better defined.

Furthermore, the Dutch clearly said in the election last year that rising living costs must be brought under control. In particular, the PVV has made many promises to abolish the so-called “eigen risico” (the amount that citizens over 18 contribute monthly to medical care), make access to housing easier and cheaper and get energy costs under control.

The VVD is the only party of the current four-party coalition that will be part of the new government. This party’s challenge will be to step beyond the Rutte era and re-establish itself as a credible classical liberal party.

The PVV received a strong mandate from voters last year. Wilders has so far made the most concessions of all four parties. His challenge will be to retain his right-wing voters by proving that he can get immigration under control and stop the Islamization of Dutch towns and cities while strengthening Dutch sovereignty.

Omtzigt and his NSC’s biggest breakthrough so far is the technocratic nature of the new government and the fact that the four party leaders will not be part of the government. An agreement on responsible budget management was also negotiated by Omtzigt in the government agreement.

The BoerBurgerBeweging largely succeeded in getting its goals included in the agreement. This means that no farmers will be forced to sell their farms to the government. Nitrogen and other regulations will be relaxed. The fishing industry will also be able to start breathing again after the Rutte government almost completely destroyed this industry.

The BoerBurgerBeweging’s prime minister candidate during last year’s election was Mona Keijzer. Keijzer, a former member of the Christian Democrats and an outspoken conservative politician, has years of experience in government, but also enjoys the trust of many ordinary and especially rural Dutch people. There was still speculation last week that she might be considered as prime minister, but the other parties were probably against it, firstly because it could give the BBB a big boost, and secondly because they elected a prime minister from outside the coalition to precisely trying to establish the idea of ​​a technocratic government.

It was probably a mistake not to nominate Keijzer as prime minister, but the egos of especially Wilders, Omtzigt and Yeşilgöz could not accept this option.

‘Hope, live and Pride

The motto of the new coalition government is “Hope, courage and pride” (“courage” can be translated as “courage”). It expresses a government that wants to regain Dutch pride by giving people courage and hope for the future again.

The next few years will be rich in challenges for the Netherlands. Although the country is currently very successful economically – one of the most prosperous countries in the world, but which still experiences relatively low levels of crime – cracks are visible everywhere.

Cost of living has risen tremendously in recent years. There are major housing shortages, and medical and other services are increasingly under pressure due to an aging population. Crime is on the rise. The social cohesion of society, with a large gap between the liberal urban elite and the rural, conservative citizenry, as well as between nationally minded Dutch, globalists and growing immigrant populations creating parallel communities, may lead to more conflict in the future.

The new Dutch coalition government is a step in the right direction. It is brave of these four parties to now make an effort to steer the country in a different direction. Whether Schoof is the right man to steer the ship is uncertain, but he cannot simply be shot down just yet. However, it will require excellent navigation skills from everyone in the team to steer the ship through stormy waters over the next few years.

For now, however, it seems that the Netherlands, and a majority of Dutch people, are ready to give the new government a fair chance of success.