The election campaign is not about the European Union, while Prime Minister Rutte has sometimes been more concerned with European politics than with national politics. There are major issues on the European meeting table, such as the enlargement of the European Union, which has more than thirty member states, including Ukraine and several Balkan countries.
Expansion with Ukraine
“Ukrainians are also fighting for our European values of freedom and democracy,” says VOLT party leader Laurens Dassin. “Ukraine’s future lies in the European Union, as well as other countries that share our values.”
Umtsygt believes that Ukraine’s accession will take a long time, but if such an extension is offered a corrective referendum must be held. “Because it would change the union greatly.”
According to GroenLinks party leader Frans Timmermans, it is “essential” for the EU to be open to new member states “in the long term”. “Ukraine is not yet ready for this, so this is a long-term project,” says Timmermans. “You shouldn’t make false promises that it can be done quickly, but the EU really needs to be reformed first.” Timmermans calls for a Europe of “different speeds”. VOLT also wants reform, by eliminating member states’ veto power.
Party for Freedom against the new member states of the European Union. Freedom Party leader Wilders fears that the Netherlands will become a “larger net contributor.”
Hit the table with your fist
Umtsigt wants the new government to adopt a more critical stance. “I don’t agree at all with Orbán in Hungary or with Poland. But they put it on the table several times: we want it differently. And then everyone started to react, but in the end they partly got what they wanted.” “Because they formulate what they want clearly. Sometimes the Netherlands has to do that,” says Umtsigt.
Timmermans calls the Umtzigt comparison “complete nonsense.” “Hungary no longer receives money from Europe because they are misbehaving. Recently, Polish voters have said goodbye to this policy.”
According to the former European Commissioner, the Netherlands can achieve more by working together. “Then other countries will take you seriously, too,” says Timmermans. “Putting your fist on the table sounds great, but it accomplishes absolutely nothing.”
The Dutch position in Brussels
What path does the Netherlands choose in the European Union? “Prime Minister Rutte’s trajectory in recent years has focused largely on EU cooperation. At first, Rutte started out critical, but he gradually realized the importance of European cooperation. In recent years especially, the Netherlands has typically taken a constructive stance,” says political correspondent Fons Lampe. Rutte had very little influence.” “Umtsigt now calls for a different position. As a Member of Parliament, he was also highly critical of the European Union. But whether the course and position will truly change will depend on the new coalition and the new prime minister.”
Umzigt also calls for an “opt-out” option, whereby the Netherlands would not participate in new European rules, for example on immigration or new common debt between member states.
“When it comes to Europe, Umtsigt is already taking forty steps backward. His proposals are impossible to implement and put an ax to the root of European cooperation,” says VOLT party leader Laurens Dassin.
After the Brexit referendum in 2016 and protracted negotiations between Britain and the EU, the Dutch “exit” from the EU is rarely discussed. Wilders’ party, the Freedom Party, wants to hold an upcoming referendum. “Let the voter decide.” Wilders admits that “the majority of the Dutch people do not support this,” but at the same time he wants to “restore sovereignty over immigration and nitrogen.”
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