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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Five issues that a new cabinet should solve revisited: What does the new government agreement state about it? (Part I)

This Monday, 5 November 2012, in The Netherlands, a new cabinet will be sworn in by Queen Beatrix. This cabinet consists of two parties: the liberal-conservative VVD, represented by current and new Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the labour-party PvdA, represented by current alderman of Amsterdam and future Vice-PM Lodewijk Asscher.

Diederik Samsom, the chief-whip (i.e. fraction leader) and main negotiator of the PvdA during the governmental negotiations, chose to remain chief-whip in the Second Chamber of Dutch Parliament (‘Commons’), instead of being part of the new government.

For people outside The Netherlands, it can be hard to believe that the 'former archenemies' VVD and PvdA have found each other so quickly after the elections, while having fought such a heavy battle in the eve to these elections. 

Therefore I write a little explanation on this topic:

At the time of Cabinet Rutte I in 2010, the VVD had made a political move to the right. This move was under heavy pressure of the VVD's grassroots, that in the polls clearly showed  having difficulties chosing between the moderately conservative VVD and the populist-rightwing PVV of Geert Wilders. 

As a consequence of this move to right, the VVD turned very much against the ‘leftish’ PvdA and its schoolbook socialist leader Job Cohen. The VVD therefore chose for the disastrous coalition with the CDA and the PVV as their silent partner.

In April 2012, when the party was over for the cabinet of VVD and CDA and silent partner PVV, Mark Rutte finally understood that a new coalition with support of Geert Wilders was a no-go area, although he never really apologized for it. The Christian-Democrat CDA, however, deeply and formally regretted this doomed coalition, but received blow after blow during its preparation for the elections of September 2012. 

In the meantime, Cohen, the crashed-and-burned political leader of the PvdA during and after the 2010 elections, had been replaced by the young and dynamic Diederik Samsom.

Samsom was not only a more eloquent, flexible and modern social-democrat than the somewhat old-fashioned and uptight Cohen, but he was also from the same generation as Mark Rutte. Although both represented different parties with different points-of-view, there was a kind of chemistry between them. Besides that, both parties were the great victors of Septembers elections and were therefore destined to negotiate with each other first.

These factors culminated in a strong desire at both parties to let the negotiations succeed, leading to those being finished within 50 days: a post-war record in The Netherlands. On Monday, October 29, the new Goverment Agreement was presented.

On September 6, I wrote an article presenting my five issues that the new cabinet should solve first. Today, using this earlier article, I want to look what the new government agreement states about these five issues.

I do this by printing the pertinent snips of my September article, followed by stating the applicable messages in the current government agreement and adding my personal comments.

As this article would be too long and too much time-consuming for one day, I will divide it in two or three parts. The next parts will be printed in the coming days.

Eurocrisis / European Trust crisis

I wrote earlier:
Encapsulated in the Euro-crisis there is a much bigger issue: the total lack of trust, cooperation and friendship between the North- and South-European ‘hemispheres’. There is a total division between the ‘frugal, hard-working and mainly protestant’ North-European countries and the ‘cheerful, squandering and catholic’ south of Europe, culminating in the PIIGS-countries.

In this division, The Netherlands, mainly represented by PM Mark Rutte and Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager, has played a controversial role. In a short amount of time, The Netherlands changed from one of the most loyal partners of the EU into the ‘class bully’ with its non-cooperative stance on many issues and the constant bullying of the PIIGS-countries and their so-called unreliability. Even today PM under resignation Mark Rutte is constantly sending the wrong signals to Brussels and the financial markets.

The new government agreement states:

We are prepared to help each other in order to reinforce the EU and the Euro, but not at every price. Support can only be supplied after proven efforts of countries to solve their financial problems and reinforce their economies.

The Netherlands supports a step-by-step arrangement of a European banking union. European banking supervision and the reinforcement of bank balances needs to be arranged asap. Under stringent conditions direct bank support can be supplied from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Final part is a common resolution mechanism and a European deposit guarantee system.

Within the EU there is a movement towards a banking tax. The Netherlands will support this, as long as our pension funds are excluded from this tax and the tax proceeds will be returned to the member states.

European countries effectively enforce agreements on each other. Controls will be reinforced.

Countries have the responsibility to keep their state budget in order and to reinforce their economies. Structural support from countries that take their responsibilities towards countries that don’t take their responsibilities is not acceptable.

The Euro-commissioner for economic and monetary affairs will receive more power and competences.

After mutual agreement, it should be possible for a country to leave a common arrangement (Schengen, Euro-zone, EU)

The development of the European budget should be in line with the development of national budgets. The Netherlands doesn’t support a substantial expansion of the EU budget, while member-states need to instate austerity measures.

The financial obligations between the EU member-stated need to be divided fairly. For The Netherlands this means continuation of the earlier agreed correction of €1 bln.

My comments:

The whole 42 page text of the government agreement contained 1 (!) page on the European Union, of which I translated most in the aforementioned lines. 

What I left out where the platitudes on the importance of Europe for our companies and jobs and the mandatory babble on the European Union as a means for peace and prosperity.
  • There is no line on the necessity of restoring the mutual trust, cooperation and friendship between the member-states that suffered dearly from the Euro-crisis.
  • There is also not a single retrospective line in which the Dutch policy of the past two years towards the EU and the Euro-zone has been evaluated.
This is an enormous disappointment and confirms the status of The Netherlands as a country of unimaginative and egocentrical grocers and skinflints.

A few weeks ago Mark Rutte already stated that he didn’t like the ‘blurred panorama’s’ that were sketched by Herman van Rompuy. With this government agreement he confirmed his point. 

There isn’t any vision present on how the euro-crisis should be solved in the foreseeable future and on the direction in which Europe should go for the coming century, according to this new cabinet. It proves the political anaemia in The Netherlands towards Europe and the Euro-zone.

Although no country in particular is mentioned here, Rutte’s point is clear:
  • We won’t help other countries to improve their economies; neither by giving those countries non-financial aid, nor by changing domestic laws and policies that hurt the interests of other European countries.
  • We are only prepared to help other countries if it doesn’t cost us money eventually.
  • If it does cost us money or if a country in need doesn’t get its budget in order, we are prepared and willing to kick those countries in need out of the Euro-zone.
Also flabbergasting is the statement that the transaction / banking tax is good for everybody, except for the Dutch pension funds. 

It is unfortunately not surprising that The Netherlands wants to receive the proceedings of this banking tax and that it wants to maintain the negotiated discount of €1 bln on the payments towards the EU, while categorically refusing to increase the European budget.

Europe and the European Union are there for us; we are not there for the European Union. 

J.F. Kennedy ('It's not what your country can do for you...') and Alexandre Dumas' Three musqueteers (One for all and all for one) would be deeply disappointed. So am I...

Tomorrow the next episode

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