Monday

15th Aug 2022

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.

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

  • 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.

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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Zelensky vows to 'target' Russian soldiers at nuclear plant
  2. Putin vows greater cooperation with North Korea and Taliban
  3. Hungarian judge slams Orbán's rule-of-law attacks
  4. Borrell condemns 'despicable' Rushdie attack
  5. Slow wind-farm approvals risk green goals, warns industry
  6. Increase in people crossing Channel to UK in 2022
  7. Swedish government to toughen gang-crime penalties
  8. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike

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. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis
  2. Europe's wildfire destruction set to hit new record
  3. How Putin and Erdoğan are making the West irrelevant
  4. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  5. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  6. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  7. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  8. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us