‘Mr Nee’, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, is trying to overcome an internal crisis in his Government due to his unsupportive attitude towards Italy and Spain in the coronavirus crisis
The Dutch, seen from the perspective of a sister region like Flanders, here in Belgium, is an efficient, direct and practical type, with a progressive mentality and a loud party-goer. But also, it is perceived as excessively straightforward (uncomfortable), without much self-criticism, with a fixation on the rules, prone to give lessons in morality. And to top it off, a little stingy. They are simple topics. But you know … The point is that some of it distil the conduct of the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte (The Hague, 1967), one of the oldest leaders in the EU.
The coronavirus has turned this quiet man into a kind of ‘black beast’ for southern European countries. It already was during the financial crisis of 2008. Since then, it has continued as an annoying grain in the face of any attempt at integrative progress (read banking union, tax on high technologies, a European army, etc., etc.). ‘Mr. Nee ‘has said not systematically without dishevelled. On behalf of that New Hanseatic League that brings together austerity champions (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Or they are doing the dirty work to almighty Germany.
And that, curiously, when all of Europe breathed a sigh of relief in 2017 after Rutte stopped the far-right in his country, the Islamophobic Geert Wilders. Because yes, the liberal politician has always considered himself pro-European. And it is. In their way. And its way is guided by a fundamental criterion: it is enough for the EU to be a fluid trade union. This is what is suitable for the Netherlands. That and act as a pseudo-paradise, with tax advantages to multinationals (Starbucks, for example) for which he has been convicted.
The rest, including crises, belong to others. In that of a decade ago, The Hague pulled the fable of the ant and the cicada to blame Greece, Spain, Portugal or Italy have spent the money “on liquor and women” and then ask for help. And in the coronavirus issue, this “moral hazard” has once again emerged in the Dutch official discourse with the demand for the coronabonds, a pan-European public debt issue.
A veteran in the EU, the son of a large family and single, has not hesitated to show his ‘affair’ with a television presenter
Its current minister, Wopke Hoekstra, accused Italy and Spain of wasting money and running out of resources to face the pandemic. “Disgusting” was the reply he received from the Portuguese Antonio Costa. “The Dutch fixation on moral stories during a deadly and indiscriminate health crisis has not done The Hague any favours,” the Financial Times reproached him a few days ago.
Rutte is there. And he is not covered. Share and embody that feature of the Calvinist tradition, that of not showing or wasting money. But displaying it among unbearable numbers of the dead is that, “re-pug-nan-te”. Member of the Protestant church, with a degree in History, and former head of Human Resources in the private sector, despite all this, he enjoys popularity in his country. He has been in power for nine years. And just a few weeks ago, amid the coronavirus crisis, he appeared in a 10-minute and 20-second televised speech (unpublished since the 1970s with a minister-president) that media such as Volkskrant considered “enough to unite the entire country.”
Firmness and naivety
The guy is personable, undeniable. He has a noisy smile that infects and exhibits closeness. He plays the piano (he was a concert player), loves classical music but is also a fan of U2 and recently included Bruno Mars among his other favourite artists. He regularly goes to the gym, and the bicycle is his means of transportation (Until three years ago he boasted of having an old Saab that he hardly used).
The same is mounted on a velocipede to serve as a history teacher (two hours a week), as to travel to institutions or audiences with King Guillermo and before with his mother, Beatriz. Few crucial details of his private life. The son of a large family and single, although he has not hesitated to show his ‘affair’ with a presenter TV (with flirtations in the joint photoshoot) for a Dutch medium.
Your public image is enough. And in it, there is everything that has already been said. And, for example, a ‘no’ to Donald Trump before the journalists when he slipped that the US-EU trade disputes could benefit both countries. “No, that has to be solved,” he cut him off. Also ‘trending topic’ images such as a (literal) scrubbing before the cleaners of the parliament after having dropped the coffee; a “We have a paper to be shitting for ten years”, during his visit to one of the centres of a supermarket chain. And also, in the middle of the Covid-19, the careless handshake of his companion in an appearance in which, seconds before, he had asked the Dutch to collide their feet or elbows to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
He is like that. Naive, avoiding the internal and external crises without unnecessary problems. Until now. Because the selfish stance of your Government could take its toll, his finance minister has admitted that he was not “empathetic enough” with his southern partners. All the opposition has thrown itself on top of Rutte; even a rift has opened with two of the partners in his coalition government. Even his Central Bank demands solidarity. You have responded with a donation as if they were not partners. The moralina persists.