Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Dutch PM misses EU summit to save coalition

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has asked his Luxembourgian colleague Xavier Bettel to take his place at the EU summit of government leaders in Brussels on Thursday (18 December).

Rutte will stay in the Hague in an attempt to “solve the problem that has arisen” within his coalition, the prime minister wrote in a letter to parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The coalition government of Rutte's centre-right Liberal party and the centre-left Labour party has been in danger of collapsing since Tuesday (16 December).

The “Christmas crisis”, as Dutch media have dubbed the row, started when three Labour senators unexpectedly voted against a bill by Liberal health minister Edith Schippers.

With their No votes, they struck down the bill, which would have limited the choice patients have in choosing their medical provider.

Schippers called it “very disappointing” that her bill was struck down, but the move by the three senators has repercussions beyond a failed bill.

In the 2012 elections for the lower house, Liberal and Labour emerged as the two largest parties, receiving a majority of seats between the two of them. In the Senate, which has the power to strike down laws, they had only 30 of 75 seats.

Soon enough the cabinet realised they needed a fixed set of parties to work with to gain majorities in the Senate, instead of scrambling for seats every time a bill has to pass the house.

Since 2013, the government has three favourite opposition parties to work with: the pro-EU Liberal D66, and the Christian right-wing parties Christian Union and SGP. The so-called “constructive opposition” helps the cabinet secure majorities in the Senate, in exchange for some influence in government policy.

That only works if party discipline within Labour and Liberal also remains tight. The three “dissidents” that voted against Schippers' plan, are a strain on relations between the coalition parties. The main question for the two sides is: can we trust each other to deliver the necessary seats?

All of Thursday, party leaders and ministers have been trying to find out if they can.

Meanwhile in Brussels, it will be Luxembourgian prime minister Bettel who will speak on behalf of Rutte.

He sent foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders to Brussels to brief Bettel. EU rules prevent Koenders, or anyone else, from replacing Rutte in the actual meetings.

In his letter, Rutte explained that the choice befell on Bettel – and not Belgian prime minister Charles Michel – because of the two other Benelux prime ministers, he has been in office the longest.

The Benelux is the cooperation between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which dates back to 1944, and was something of an inspiration for European cooperation.

Before EU summits in Brussels, the Benelux prime ministers meet to prepare. Since October, all three prime minsters are Liberal - and relatively young.

Dutch pro-Europe parties win heated election

The Netherland’s pro-European parties swept to victory on Wednesday in a closely watched election that had prompted concerns eurosceptics would increase their influence in future decision-making powers.

Focus

Wilders' party suffers blow, according to exit poll

Geert Wilders Freedom Party lost almost five percent of its votes compared to 2009 while the pro-EU D66 emerged at the top, according to exit polls for the EU vote in the Netherlands.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

Opinion

On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?

If the European parliament votes in favour of the new Morocco agreement without knowing that it complies with the European Court of Justice judgement, how can it demand that other countries respect international law and their own courts?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us