Monday

24th Jul 2017

Interview

Green ex-MEP: Tell Dutch full sovereignty isn't coming back

  • The GreenLeft party is attracting crowds in their meet-ups in concert halls (Photo: mediateam GroenLinks Utrecht)

Coming Thursday (9 March), some 5,000 Dutch people will attend a political event organised by the GreenLeft party in a concert hall in Amsterdam.

The headliner of the sold-out event: party leader Jesse Klaver.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • GreenLeft candidate Kathalijne Buitenweg was an MEP for ten years, until 2009 (Photo: European Parliament)

Tickets were free, but it is still remarkable for a Dutch politician to attract 5,000 people, on a stage that four weeks later will host Sting, and six weeks later, Bob Dylan.

Similar events in other smaller cities attracted several thousands more.

The meet-ups have helped to boost the image of the GreenLeft's young party leader, Jesse Klaver.

In the latest weighted average of polls, GreenLeft is predicted to receive around 11 percent of the votes, making it the fifth-largest of fourteen possible contenders for seats in parliament. According to those polls, GreenLeft could grow from its four seats in the lower house now, to between 16 and 18 seats, of 150.

The Dutch political landscape is so fragmented that four or five parties may be needed to form a majority coalition.

GreenLeft's leader is so busy that the party suggested his running mate for an interview.

“Our current position is very nice, but it is too early to make any predictions,” said Kathalijne Buitenweg in an interview with EUobserver.

Buitenweg, a former MEP, has been away from politics for seven years, but enjoyed being back on the campaign trail.

“I love doing debates,” she said in a 50-minute conversation in the bar of a hotel in Amsterdam, last Wednesday (1 March).

“You see people thinking that perhaps the old politics did not bring us the society that we wanted. It is great to be talking to people about that.”

Buitenweg noted one thing she didn't like about the campaign trail.

“What I hate is when you are told to say within one minute why people should vote for you. Then I really feel like I am selling a jar of peanut butter.”

The Dutch election campaign has so far devoted too little attention to the country's relationship with the European Union, the GreenLeft candidate MP said.

She said she did not think the result in the lower house of parliament elections, 15 March, will provide a clear picture of whether the Netherlands has become more or less eurosceptic, because other themes are dominating the debate.

“I think we are much more inward-looking than other countries,” said Buitenweg.

The left-wing politician criticised politicians that want to be able to make national policy completely independently.

“I think that there is not enough emphasis on the fact that we are partly already a political union,” she said.

“You have not been sovereign for a long time,” she said to the many Dutch politicians who advocate for less Europe.

“You have no complete monetary sovereignty, you have no complete economic sovereignty, but that is not just because of the European Union. That wasn't the case before either,” said Buitenweg, bringing to mind that the Dutch currency before the euro, the guilder, was pegged to the German mark.

“Let's just admit that honestly. And say that it's okay,” she said.

Brexit

Buitenweg was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009, where she was a part of the Greens group.

Her party is one of two Dutch parties that are proudly pro-EU, but with the proviso that the EU should be more focussed on social and environmental cooperation.

Europe should be “not just a market, but also a gathering in which you protect people”, said Buitenweg.

The former MEP said the Brexit vote highlighted fault lines, between young and old, between English and Scottish, between winners and losers of globalisation.

“The lesson [of Brexit] should be that we have to mend those fault lines.”

“It can fail, the European project,” she said.

Polarisation

The fault lines are also present in the Netherlands, Buitenweg said.

She referred not only to the tone of Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom is anti-EU and anti-Islam, but also to prime minister Mark Rutte's Liberal party, and the centre-right Christian-Democrats, who increasingly "go along" with Wilders' rhetoric.

“Many voters are really worried about polarisation,” she said. “Many people are a bit sick of the tough 'us against them'.”

Buitenweg said she noticed this feeling among part of the population during election rallies her party is holding.

These meet-ups do not only attract members of the party, but also moderate people who feel they need to show themselves, she said.

“I notice that a lot of people are getting very nervous about Trump,” she said. “People are saying: I just feel that things are not automatically going well, with Trump, Ukraine, and Brexit.”

Buitenweg said she was “frightened” by the move of the White House to ban certain media groups from a press briefing, noting that she had not expected it to reach this point “that quickly”.

Five scenarios

Buitenweg spoke to EUobserver just hours after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker presented five different scenarios for the future of the European Union.

The following morning, she wrote in a text message that if she had to choose, she would opt for the "doing much more together" scenario, as long as this included more of a focus on social and environmental norms.

Dutch election: EU's most unpredictable vote

Polls suggest that four or five parties will be needed to form a majority after the 15 March vote. The shrunk size of the establishment parties means that smaller parties may play a role of kingmaker.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

News in Brief

  1. Wallonia's Magnette leaves national politics
  2. Polish president vetoes justice reforms
  3. Turkey arrests protesters, as journalists go to trial
  4. Poll: Only 24% of Germans want 'strong leader'
  5. US envoy: 'hot war' not frozen conflict in Ukraine
  6. BMW denies Dieselgate cartel allegations
  7. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  8. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  2. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  3. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  5. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  6. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  7. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  8. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  9. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices
  11. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  12. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law