Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is looking to maintain his place in power later this month as the Netherlands goes to the polls. The election comes after the Dutch government resigned – when more than 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraud by the tax authority in the Netherlands. Despite the gravity of the scandal, it is expected the Dutch Prime Minister will win this month’s election as the errors had already started under a previous government. Mr Rutte will therefore likely remain the Netherlands’ man to represent their interests in Europe as the EU looks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The health crisis has sparked renewed tensions in the eurozone, but the Dutch have long expressed their frustrations with the economic policy of the EU.
This was seen as far back as 2012, when voters and politicians alike vented their grievances.
Harry Meens, owner and director of Alfa Beer, a family brewery outside Maastricht, told the BBC at the time that ten years of the euro had “done nothing for my business”.
He added: “We have one Europe with totally different excise duties and taxes in each country. It doesn’t work.
“First work on harmonising all that and then create a single currency. They did it the wrong way round.”
Mr Meens lived in Limburg, the small town where the Maastricht Treaty – the foundation treaty of the European Union – was forged.
Resentment of the euro from some Dutch voters is what led to the rise of Geert Wilders – a far right figure in the Netherlands who has called for a ‘Nexit’ to take the country out of the EU.
But the other side of the political spectrum also showed frustration.
“Over my dead body,” is what the then-Socialist Party leader, Emile Roemer, answered when asked if the Netherlands should pay fines to the EU in Brussels for missing targets on cutting spending. It greatly helped his popularity in the opinion polls.
Johan Muyskens, professor of economics at Maastricht University, argued the Netherlands had become “just one of the states of Germany, basically. That’s the economic reality.”
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Last year, Prime Minister Rutte was critical in debates over the EU budget, and was a leading figure demanding that Hungary and Poland abide by a rule of law mechanism.
This sparked a dispute which turned hostile when the two countries vetoed the Budget.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused Mr Rutte of using “communist tactics” and of “hating” Hungary.