Dutch liberal MEP Malik Azmani (l) together with Renew Europe leader and French MEP Valérie Hayer (r) (Photo: European Parliament)


Dutch coalition latest example of EU liberals collaboration with far-right

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Renew Europe leader and French MEP Valérie Hayer denounced the newly-formed Dutch rightwing government coalition on Thursday (16 May) — exposing divisions among Renew, the party group of European liberals. 

Hayer expressed her “total disapproval and deep concern” over the coalition agreement between the People’s Party of Freedom and Democracy (VVD), a member of Renew and former prime minister Mark Rutte’s party; and Geert Wilders' Party of Freedom (PVV), a long-standing member of the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID).

The VVD struck the deal shortly after Renew vowed to “never cooperate nor form a coalition with the far-right and radical parties at any level,” in a declaration also signed by the Socialists & Democrats, Greens and the Left — causing commentators to question the value of the pledge. 

However, the VVD/PVV collaboration is less unprecedented than it might seem, with conservative-leaning liberals across Europe having struck deals with the far-right. 

The far-right has increasingly frequently found its way to executive power, having assumed office in Italy, Finland, and Austria, and striking coalition or support deals in various other places. 

Generally, parties affiliated with the Christian democrat centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) tend to be least resistant to the temptation, with Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenković, who signed a coalition agreement with the far-right following elections in April, as the latest example. 

This was demonstrated once more when during the Maastricht debate EU Commission president and EPP lead candidate Ursula von der Leyen refused to rule out collaborating with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which includes several ultraconservative and far-right parties.

But despite their stated commitment to pro-European values and democracy, some Renew members have found themselves teaming up with the far-right as well. 

Notably, Rutte himself got his first stint as prime minister with parliamentary support from the PVV in 2010, leading a short-lived minority government with the Christian Democrats.

Present examples include the (confusingly-named) Swedish People's Party of Finland, which is currently a junior partner in the Helsinki government, and the Swedish Liberals, who joined a controversial coalition with the far-right Sweden Democrats in 2022. 

Previously, Renew member Versten in Denmark has made repeated confidence-and-supply deals with the Danish People’s Party since 2001, and in 2019 the Centre Party in Estonia formed a coalition with ultraconservative nationalist EKRE. On the regional level as well, deals have been struck by Dutch and Spanish liberals. 

The history of far-right collaboration illustrates a continued division within the Renew group. Significantly, liberals collaborating with the far-right tend to come from countries where the liberal vote is split between conservative and progressive parties. 

Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Estonia all have both a conservative and more progressive member of Renew, in a clear expression of the more general tension. 

But with National Rally [Rassemblent National] (RN), the French far-right party, surging in European election polls, French liberals in particular have made a concerted push for Renew to cast itself as a pro-European progressive bastion.

Still, the VVD coalition talks have demonstrated that not all members are similarly keen to stay on the progressive course. 

'Kingmaker' role in grand coalition threatened

The rift comes to the fore at a particularly critical moment, with polls indicating that Renew might lose its vaunted kingmaker role in providing the S&D/EPP grand coalition with the votes required for a majority. 

For their part D66, the Dutch progressive liberals, vehemently criticised the VVD for its coalition deal, with MEP candidate Raquel Garcia Hermida-van der Walle telling the EUobserver that Renew members were “astounded” over the deal.

Though talk of revoking membership was premature, “the VVD should consider whether it is still in the right group,” said Garcia Hermida-van der Walle, who is second on the D66 list.

But even within the VVD, the coalition deal sowed discord, with MEP Bart Groothuis saying in a debate on Thursday that he would have preferred his colleague Malik Azmani to be leader of Renew over governing with the PVV. Azmani, leader of the VVD delegation in the parliament, was briefly in the running to lead the group.

The future of the VVD in Renew will become clearer after the elections, however, with Hayer announcing a meeting on 10 June — the day after the European Parliament elections.

Author Bio

Piet Ruig is a Brussels-based journalist who previously worked for the Dutch public broadcaster VPRO.

Dutch liberal MEP Malik Azmani (l) together with Renew Europe leader and French MEP Valérie Hayer (r) (Photo: European Parliament)


Author Bio

Piet Ruig is a Brussels-based journalist who previously worked for the Dutch public broadcaster VPRO.


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