October 6, 2022

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Is there a latent ministerial crisis, or is the commission losing face?  |  Currently

Is there a latent ministerial crisis, or is the commission losing face? | Currently

The House of Representatives will return from recess tomorrow, Tuesday. In principle, the holiday lasts until September 5, but a lot has happened in connection with perhaps the two most difficult files in the cabinet: nitrogen and purchasing power. Or, more precisely: what Christian Democratic Party leader and Foreign Minister Wöpke Hoekstra said about this last week.

“No dogmat” and nitrogen targets “are not sacred,” Hoekstra said on Friday. ad register.

Politics The Hague was brazenly shaken when the interview with the Christian Democratic Alliance member was published. Hoekstra’s proposal to drop the nitrogen target by half by 2030, in particular, has raised eyebrows.

CDA is under great pressure. The nitrogen policy published by Cabinet in June led to a storm of farmers’ protests. Christian Democrats have traditionally had a large following in the countryside and fear electoral compromise. Next year, there are already elections to the county council.

“A place where we never dared to go forward”

However, Hoekstra’s interview came as a surprise to many. The nitrogen policy was in fact a well-thought-out decision by the coalition parties VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie.

The nitrogen issue as we now know it goes back to May 2019. Then the top administrative judge ignored the old nitrogen policy. Since then, thousands of entrepreneurs with invalid building permits have been in limbo, construction hasn’t taken off and nature is deteriorating.

Solutions were sought, but in practice they turned out to be emergency dressings. The promise was that this government would come up with a structural solution.

In the end, VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie decided after the longest formation ever that nitrogen emissions should be halved by 2030. This is in line with advice from the 2019 Special Nitrogen Committee led by Johann Remix. This is especially important for the D66.

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In the words of Minister Christian van der Waal (Nature and Nitrogen), nitrogen policy is “really necessary” for nature and because there are lawsuits from nature’s organizations ready in case the targets are spoiled.

Van der Waal knows that the nitrogen problem has been known for decades. “But somewhere we never dared to go forward,” she said on Monday after consulting with regional officials.

Cabinet unity is at stake

For example, the coalition and the Cabinet are faced with an almost impossible choice: it was decided with complete conviction to take the nitrogen problem seriously, but the CDA is now raising its hand. By the way, the party has not formally applied to amend the coalition agreement.

Thus, the unity of the Cabinet is at stake, although Prime Minister Mark Rutte has tried to keep this in mind, as this concerns a party leader who is also in the Cabinet. Thus Hoekstra gets “a bit more space” than Rutte “to create its own profile”. According to the prime minister, the rule of law was “on edge”.

The government is jointly working to spread this policy to the outside world and, so to speak, “speak with one mouth.” Hoekstra violated this rule with his statement, according to Wim Furmans, professor of constitutional law at Leiden University. “There is unity in Cabinet policy. (Hoekstra) should have discussed it in Cabinet,” Furmans wrote on Twitter.

Hoekstra wants ‘at least’ $10 billion in purchasing power

Hoekstra made another great statement: he thinks “at least €10 billion” is needed to ease the pain of high inflation. The government and coalition are working on a “comprehensive package” for next year, but they have kept their mouths shut about the content and scope so far.

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Hoekstra is considering cutting income and energy taxes. As far as the CDA leader is concerned, the companies are unaffected. “Three-quarters of companies are now making more profit than they were before Corona. Then you can expect companies to raise wages.”

Hoekstra is also considering lower, non-binding measures such as a higher dividend tax or so-called solidarity tax. “Regardless of the technology, a legitimate appeal should be made to the parties that did well.”

How skeptical CDA members will be about the nitrogen target will become clear on Tuesday. If this turns out to be just a platform statement to reassure supporters, the Christian Democrats suffer a painful loss of face. If they go ahead and demand that the coalition agreement be amended, there will be a ministerial crisis.