How the Netherlands are ruining their well-known international status

Davey Meelker

The Netherlands are becoming decreasingly internationally minded. The latest example is the government’s plan to cut even more developmen aid than they already did before. This worrisome development can be placed in the context of the financial crisis that raging through Europe, which triggers the already widespread right winged populist thinking. In this globalised world, this irresponsible national focus will hurt the Netherlands, whose industry is mostly based in international trade.

This government is evidently not interested in maintaining the Dutch international focus. Since the current administration rose to power they exceedingly cut back on foreign affairs. Hundreds of people of the Ministry of Foreign affairs will be fired and nine embassies will be closed down in the near future. The Dutch govments also announced great cutbacks on public television, meaning that international coverage will suffer first. Not to mention the xenophobic attitudes of the supporting party of this government, the Freedom Party (PVV).

The latest example is the plan to cut back on development aid.  Around one billion of the 4.4 billion Euros that is spent now will be reduced. The current spending is in line with OECD-norm, an agreement among the richest countries of the world, that 0.7% of the GNP will be spent on development aid. This will be reduced to 0.6%. Even though the Netherlands is ranked 9th of the world in the 2011 IMF list of GDP per capita, the current government feels that the Dutch are giving more than their share. Ranked above the Netherlands in terms of GDP per capita are, for the most part, small states such as Quatar, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei and United Arab Emirates.

I find the government’s immoral plan mindboggling. I would expect this from the xenophobic Freedom Party. Same as for the biggest party in the government, in name the Liberal Party (VVD) but in reality a light version of the Freedom Party. Nevertheless, I would never have expected this from the other governing party, the Christian Democrat Party (CDA). In my life as a political scientist I never saw a party act self-destructively as the Christian Democrat Party. After being the largest party for eight years they received only 21 seats (out of 150) in the parliament during the last elections, half the number they had before. Never has the party had such a small amount of seats, but they obviously did not learn their lesson and wanted to govern at all costs.

The leader, Maxime Verhagen, seemed obsessed with gaining power. Under his leadership the Christian Democrats agreed to form a government with the Freedom party. Even though their xenophobic tendencies go against the Christian principle of compassion, a viewpoint that is highly valued among its constituency. The few people who spoke out against the cooperation left the parliament or were pressured to give in. Their prediction became reality: this cooperation goes against their values and hence the Christian Democrat Party will alienate its voters. Polls show that popularity of the party dropped significantly in the last two years.

But again, the current party leaders did not learn. Currently, they are betraying those same principles again. What do they want to achieve with this? Former important politicians of the party are stressing their concern and one of their former prime ministers is threatening to leave the party.

Many journalists underline that the Christian Democratic leader, Maxime Verhagen, is afraid the administration will collapse and new elections will lead to a heavy electoral setback if he does not agree with this plan. This way of thinking is foolish. Not only will even more voters leave the party with such a decision, but this situation gives also the unique opportunity to regain some credibility. By pulling the plug on such a moral issue, voters that were scared away by the cooperation with the Freedom Party could return by rightfully claiming that some of their values are restored.

My message to Verhagen is clear: pull the plug of this administration, not only for your party’s sake but also for the whole country. As a small country living of trade, it is essential to keep an international focus. If the Netherlands want to survive the current crisis this is essential. Unfortunately, I am afraid that Verhagen will give away one of the last moral values of the Christen Democratic Party to stay in power.

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