Friday

26th May 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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  2. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  5. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  6. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  8. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  10. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  12. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey