Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Dutch PM clashes with parliament over EU summit

  • (Photo: zemistor)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte clashed with parliament in the Hague on Saturday, over his refusal to elaborate on the government’s position at Sunday's eurozone summit for fear of giving away its negotiation strategy.

Even though expectations about the summit have been tempered, EU leaders are still set to make important headway on issues key to pulling the eurozone out of its crisis – with final decisions taken at a separate summit on Wednesday.

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“It will be difficult for me to answer your questions,” he told the lower house, which for the first time since the First World War assembled at the weekend. “Everybody is listening in. It might hurt the stake of the Netherlands.”

Opposition parties, however, demanded clarification and a say in the government’s mandate, especially since they will be the ones to approve whatever agreement is ultimately reached..

Rutte’s minority government normally relies on parliamentary support from the Party for Freedom of hard-right MP Geert Wilders, staunchly anti-EU and fiercely against “even one additional euro cent going to Greece”.

“Parliament has the right to know about the government’s position on, for example, the European rescue fund,” said Arie Slob, leader of the Christian Union, quoting from the country’s constitution. “The role of the parliament is at stake here.”

“I really don’t understand why you can’t just tell us about the position of the Netherlands,” said Socialist Party MP Ewout Irrgang. “It’s not a secret, is it?”

In the end, Rutte was able to defend his reluctance to share information by arguing that it was “in the interest of the state”.

He agreed to include several policy proposals from opposition parties when he speaks during the summit, including the separation of banking services and allowing countries that call upon the rescue fund to focus on reform, and not only austerity measures.

The Dutch government has been among the loudest in calling for stricter rules governing the common currency.

“Whoever wants to be part of the euro zone,” Rutte wrote last month in an op-ed in the Financial Times, “must adhere to the agreements and cannot systematically ignore the rules. In the future, the ultimate sanction can be to force countries to leave the euro.”

At meetings with German Chancellor Angel Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month, Rutte campaigned for the creation of an EU commissioner for budgetary control, who would function as an overseer of heavily indebted states.

'Summit to save Europe' still vague on details

With so many aspects of the deal still far from being brought together, any grand bargain reached between the bloc’s premiers and presidents on Wednesday will likely be only the broad outline of a plan.

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