Friday

12th Aug 2022

Dutch election: Christian Democrat would bin Ukraine treaty

  • Dutch MP Buma (r) with Ukrainian president Poroshenko, at a European People's Party conference in Maastricht, last October (Photo: European People's Party)

The leader of the Dutch Christian-Democrats party CDA is slowly moving away from the traditional pro-EU message of its European political family, the European People's Party (EPP).

Christian-Democrat MP, Sybrand van Haersma Buma, said on Sunday (26 February) at the first nationally televised debate ahead of 15 March general elections that he would “throw” the ratification bill of the EU-Ukraine association agreement “in the bin” if he became prime minister.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Last week, the Dutch Lower House voted to ratify the treaty, even though voters had rejected it in a non-binding referendum.

Buma, who has hopes of becoming the next Dutch leader, initially said he could not predict what he would do, but then said he would withdraw the ratification instrument.

His remarks followed the first national election radio debate on Radio 1 that took place on Friday (24 February), in which Buma said that other countries will follow the United Kingdom out of the EU unless the bloc “drastically” reformed.

“If Europe continues on the same track, Brexit will not be the end of it,” he said Buma.

Buma's centre-right party is a member of the European People's Party (EPP), the largest political force in the European Parliament, and traditionally very pro-EU.

But Buma appears to be wooing Dutch voters who are disillusioned with European integration and worried about migration, the two main constituencies of Dutch anti-EU populist Geert Wilders, who is leading in the polls.

Buma said on the radio that Europe needed to be less focused on “small bureaucratic rules”.

Earlier last week, in an interview with financial newspaper Financieel Dagblad, he also criticised EU rules on public tenders.

“It is impossible to explain if Europe means that you are not allowed to give your own companies some help,” he said.

The EPP politician's eurocritical position has come under fire from Alexander Pechtold, a liberal and pro-EU Dutch MP who also has his sights set on the prime minister's post.

Pechtold said Buma was “acting like the Party for Freedom” - referring to Wilders' party - to win votes.

Islam: threat or enrichment?

Wilders and current prime minister, centre-right Mark Rutte, cancelled their appearances in Sunday's tv debate, broadcast by RTL.

Like the other four debaters who did come on Sunday, Buma disagreed with the perception that Islam is a threat for Dutch identity.

“But I will not call it an enrichment,” said Buma, who listed Islam alongside health care as one of Dutch people's “worries”.

He said that after four years of the pragmatic coalition between Rutte's centre-right Liberals, and deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher's centre-left Labour, the Netherlands is “more angry, more afraid, more divided than ever”.

Asscher also appeared to tack toward voters who were worried about immigration.

More or less refugees?

When asked if the Netherlands should accept more refugees, he said he disagreed.

“The Netherlands has already done a lot,” he said.

The leader of centrist pro-EU party D66, MP Alexander Pechtold, and his colleague from GreenLeft, MP Jesse Klaver, said the Netherlands should take in more people.

Both debates were mostly about domestic issues, such as the cost of health care, euthanasia, traffic congestion, and whether employers should be allowed to fire people more easily.

Nato

US president Donald Trump was mentioned, as well as Nato.

GreenLeft leader Klaver was asked whether as prime minister he would apologise to Trump for calling him a "mafklapper" (an untranslatable, but relatively friendly insult). Pechtold said he would show Trump around, joking he would bring him to two Dutch amusement parks.

Christian-Democrat Buma said his party would increase defence spending to reach the EU average, but not the 2 percent of GDP that Nato members had promised each other in 2014.

At Friday's radio debate, which had prime minister Rutte present, Rutte said the 2 percent goal should be reached “in the long run”, but he would not name a year.

The latest polls show Wilders' party in the lead, set for 24-28 seats of 150, closely followed by Rutte's party at 23-27 seats.

The runners-up are CDA, D66, and GreenLeft, each between 15 and 19 seats.

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.

Feature

Nexit could pop up in Dutch election campaign

On 15 March, the Netherlands will have parliamentary elections. In the southern province Limburg, some expressed very different views on EU membership.

Netherlands ratifies EU-Ukraine treaty

Dutch senate approves ratification, despite a majority of referendum voters expressing opposition last year. The Netherlands should show 'reliability', one senator said.

Turkish-Dutch row takes over election campaign

Over the weekend, in the context of Dutch elections and a Turkish referendum, the Netherlands denied entry to one Turkish minister and escorted another out of the country.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts new season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us