Netherlands: Mark Rutte begins his fourth term

Posted on 10 Jan. 2022 at 8: 30

No one believed it anymore, except maybe Mark Rutte himself: for the fourth time , the Dutch Prime Minister climbs the steps of the Royal Palace on Monday of The Hague as the “new” head of government. The journey, which lasted almost a year, was long and painful. When the 15 January 2021, Mark Rutte presents to the King the resignation of all his ministers, following a serious state scandal , his political future seems compromised. The public treasury had systematically wronged tens of thousands of families, who were entitled to social allowances, simply because they had “foreign” family names. M. Rutte took full responsibility for it.

Despite this mea culpa, the liberal VVD party, with Mark Rutte at its head, wins the elections in March . The other liberal party, D 30, comes second. Then followed ten months of difficult negotiations between a large number of parties (the Dutch Assembly now has 15 different parties, a historic record).

Finally, last December, the outgoing coalition (the liberals VVD and D 30 and the Christian parties, CDA and ChristenUnie) decides to continue their collaboration, after the longest government formation in Dutch history. To everyone’s surprise, their concept of government agreement is much more progressive than that of the previous coalition.

Parity in government

For the first time, the government team will have as many women as men. New faces, but also famous names. Wopke Hoekstra (CDA) and Sigrid Kaag (D 30) switch roles. The first, who insulted the countries of southern Europe at the start of the pandemic by wanting to block the stimulus fund, will be Minister of Foreign Affairs. Sigrid Kaag will be Minister of Finance. It is expected in Europe, because for the first time the Dutch government is open to reforming fiscal rules.

The Rutte 4 government even adopted the concept of the autonomous strategy, launched by Emmanuel Macron. This is not necessarily love at first sight, but rather the logical consequence of the pragmatism of a country which sees the European Union as a way of being stronger together in a rapidly changing world.

All eyes will also be on Ernst Kuipers. This doctor and director of the Rotterdam University Hospital became one of the most famous faces on Dutch television during the pandemic. D 30 asked him to collaborate on the electoral program because of his clear actions and criticism of the policy against the government’s Covid. Mr. Kuipers now has the difficult task of pulling the country out of the pandemic and reforming the health system.

Housing crisis

A number of new ministries will emerge, such as Housing, an important pillar of the new cabinet. Rents are skyrocketing and it is nearly impossible for first-time buyers and middle-income people to buy a home. Over the next decade, a million new homes will need to be built. Mr. Hugo de Jonge, the outgoing Minister of Health, will be in charge of this dossier. A considerable task in this densely populated country, where the population in 1950 has increased almost four times faster than in France.

A Secretary of State for Mines will also make his debut, headed by Hans Vijlbrief. Not an anachronism, but a very sensitive issue: the gas extraction over the years 66 has caused many earthquakes. land that damaged thousands of homes in the north of the country. Hans Vijlbrief will have to negotiate compensation with the inhabitants of the region and support the end of operations.

Radicalization around the covid

Among the many problems to be solved is that of the tension between citizens and politics . Since the pandemic, some opponents of the policy of the fight against Covid 18 have become radicalized. Many Dutch politicians are threatened. Also on Wednesday evening, a man was arrested outside Sigrid Kaag’s home in The Hague, brandishing a lighted torch and shouting threatening words.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge revealed last week that he receives fairly serious threats every day, his house in Rotterdam is under close surveillance. News that shocked the country where ministers prefer cycling to company cars.

Despite all the obstacles, Mark Rutte and his new team have great ambitions. But, writes the daily “NRC”, the new government is ultimately very classic: because as always in the Netherlands, everything changes so that nothing changes.