Dutch Elections 15 March

Thanks to my Dutch friends and business contacts I’ve come to know and appreciate the Dutch sense for community, openness, finding consensus-based practical solutions and exploring new options for old problems. Take for example the basic income experiment in Utrecht and the push for a zero emission car fleet. Or the Netherland’s leadership in implementing long-term sustainability policies carried by cross-sector cooperation inspiring others around the globe. Many reasons to love this country and its citizens.

With this in mind, I’m now looking at the elections coming up next week:

The political landscape has changed enormously in recent years. Much like in other European countries, anti-establishment movements have resulted in the creation of new parties that challenge the dominance of mainstream politics. In the Netherlands the fragmentation has resulted in 28 parties competing for 150 seats – so whoever wants to govern needs to have a number of coalition partners. Finding consensus is the way to get things done here.

Much has been written about the rise of the polarising anti-immigration, anti-EU Party for Freedom (PVV). As all other parties refuse to partner with the PVV it’s unlike to play any government role. Nevertheless, this election will be an indicator for Europeans’ appetite for populists in the driving seat.

As of March, the PVV has fallen behind PM Rutte’s liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) for the first time, see http://peilingwijzer.tomlouwerse.nl.

It could be a tight race as many voters are likely to be still undecided given the large field of parties with often overlapping programs. There’s even a party for non-voters (Partij voor de Niet-Stemmers)!

The FT has an interesting chart with 11 scenarios for a 5-party coalition government without the PVV: https://www.ft.com/content/c5e12a58-ff75-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d3

Also see Deutsche Welle’s useful explainer on “What you need to know about the Dutch elections” and “How the Dutch Green-Left Party tackles Geert Wilders, one door at a time”.

What about cyber interference by hackers? Not to worry: The Dutch government’s approach is to go old school with pen and paper.

What’s all that noise about a “multi-speed Europe”

It seems to me that our leaders in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Madrid and elsewhere have finally come to acknowledge the writing on the wall: The grand idea of ever deeper European integration is not feasible (at the moment) or would come at a great cost and that it would be wiser to move forward with more flexiblity. In essence, a multi-speed Europe is about returning certain areas of decision-making back to member states, see Juncker white paper.

That’s quite a shift in tone for some like the German chancellor, although the idea is not entirely new. It was on the table during the talks with pre-Brexit PM David Cameron early last year but clearly not explored seriously enough. I do wonder how this might have changed the outcome of the British referendum.

Which takes me to Brexit ….

When will Article 50 be triggered?

Previously, 15 March had been cited as trigger day but the timeline may have been comprised thanks to the House of Lords’ rebellion. Last week, peers voted for an amendment that guarantees the rights of EU citizens living in the UK plus for giving parliament the final say over any withdrawal deal the UK government discusses with the EU

UK broadsheets such as Mirror and Daily Mail are running stories today suggesting Article 50 may be triggered by Tuesday or Thursday next week.

The FT writes the UK government may wait at least until after Scottish National party conference 17-18 March or until after the 60 year anniversary celebration of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March (which lead to the creation of the EEC, the forerunner of today’s EU).

As an aside, there’s press gossip about UK PM Theresa May either skipping the Rome party or or not being invited. In light of upcoming negotiations I would like her to be there. The UK has been a key member for a long time and will remain a partner, either way. And a celebration is always a good occasion to come together as human beings and smooth the waves

Have a great weekend everyone!

Judith, 10 March 2017