Defense Minister Hans Heylen at the time was clear: nothing went wrong in this cooperation with Wilders. “I governed with the Freedom Party for two years as a tolerant party and for two years I observed that they adhered to all their agreements.”
In addition, according to Helen, the Christian Democratic Party did not have to make any concessions to its own principles. “The fear that existed before was basically a lack of trust in our people.”
Henri Kruithof was part of the VVD leadership in 2010 as Chief Information Officer of the VVD faction. It is a summary of cooperation with the Freedom Party and Wilders. “It went very smoothly.” To add right away: “Until something went wrong.”
The VVD and CDA concluded a tolerance agreement with the PVV in 2010 because they did not want to be in a “normal” government with Wilders. The reason was a matter of principle, as then Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal (VVD) explains.
“This construction of tolerance arose because of a fundamental contradiction between, on the one hand, the Freedom Party for Democracy and the Christian Democratic Party, which view Islam as a religion, and, on the other hand, the Freedom Party, which sees Islam as an aggressive political ideology that must be vigorously combated.”
Thus, a tolerance agreement was also concluded, with agreements between the three parties. Only twenty pages contain agreements on migration, integration, asylum, safety, elderly care and finances. The three parties adhered to these agreements.
Crystal clear agreements
“Wilders had a somewhat freer role because his party did not supply the ministers, but he tolerated the government,” says party spokesman Kruythof. “This was possible because crystal clear agreements had been reached. Wilders simply stuck to them and could therefore carry on as usual.”
Naturally, the FFR and the CDU cannot rely on the FFR for plans in political areas other than those agreed in the coalition agreement. To achieve this, ministers had to find a majority themselves in the House of Representatives. So Wilders was free to think and say anything about those plans.
“He was always making a lot of noise,” Krothoff says. “But all this was possible. The agreement was: If nothing was stipulated in the tolerance agreement, Wilders could say whatever he wanted. Rutte always said about that: He could say that, because it is not in the tolerance agreement. And he did that.” “Wilders, but it never got to that point.”
After last November's elections, Geert Wilders reached out to other parties. Watch the video here:
Minister of State Ben Knappen (CDA), responsible for development cooperation and European affairs, had to seek support for his plans himself. “The Freedom Party opposes development cooperation and has little interest in European cooperation. But it was also agreed that the Freedom Party will not support motions of no confidence in members of the Council of Ministers. So, in my position I cannot be expelled by them.”
'Have dinner together'
So Knapen mainly sought support from PvdA, D66 and GroenLinks. Did that make him head of Gott for Wilders? “No, he sometimes said unkind things, but I knew from day one that I had no use for Wilders or his party.” There was not much personal contact between Knappen and Wilders. “Sometimes 'eat a meal together,'” Rottie suggested, “but I never did.”
As Foreign Minister, Uri Rosenthal often had to explain to his foreign colleagues why he was cooperating with Wilders. “I often had to explain the nuances of this tolerance in all kinds of foreign countries, including many Arab countries. It was very difficult.”
There are no negative experiences
Job Atsma, Minister of State for Infrastructure and Environment in Rutte's first government, views the cooperation with the Freedom Party with satisfaction.
“I always had to do my best to win a majority. As a result, I also had to deal with deputies from the Freedom Party. Among them were Dion Graus and Richard De Mos in my portfolio. Sometimes I was able to persuade them to support my plans.” Sometimes no. But I haven't had any negative experiences.”
Rutte's first government suffered massive fiscal setbacks in 2012. Cuts had to be made. “Rutte told me that Wilders had an idea about this,” says Knappen, then foreign minister. “No more spending on development cooperation. I told Rutte: You can do it, it's a free country, but then you have to find someone else, because I won't do it. And that didn't happen.”
Ultimately, the government fell because the Freedom Party refused to agree to massive cuts.
Withdrawal of support 'completely unnecessary'
Atsma was not happy when Wilders decided to withdraw his support for the government. “I didn't think it was necessary. In that sense I was politically angry. It wasn't necessary at all at the time. But it was separate from the conventions.”
The reason for ending the cooperation caused Wilders to be considered unreliable. Unjustified, according to Atsma. “I don't think this says anything about the reliability of Wilders or the Freedom Party. Look at the ministries of the last 25 years. What is reliability in politics? It continues in government so that no faction – or individual faction members – disappears.” “More compatible with politics.”
Helen also doesn't think this says anything about Wilders' reliability. “Yes, he pulled out quickly when cuts had to be made, but those cuts were also very large. We actually started the Cabinet with an order of cuts worth I know how many billion. It was not because of a Dutch problem, but because of a Dutch problem,” Greek Crisis . One year later, we were hit again. Well, a normal coalition government wouldn't have done that either.”
“The image this subsequently created of Wilders is emotionally understandable, but historically incorrect. I'm not saying that working with the FPO was easy, but as if it was always a party with the PvdA? Hello!”
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