Farmers party leader tells Dutch PM to drop nitrogen policy as pair meet to discuss shock election results

Mark Rutte and Caroline van der Plas met on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since the Farmer-Citizen Movement’s landslide election victory

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
Lawmaker Caroline van der Plas, leader of the populist Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) sips her coffee during an interview after casting her vote for the provincial elections in Okkenbroek, eastern Netherlands, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been told to drop his government’s controversial nitrogen emissions policy by Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) who stormed to victory in regional elections last week, as the pair met for the first time since the electoral success.

At van der Plas’ invitation, the meeting took place at De Landbouw restaurant in Wassenaar, an affluent suburb of The Hague on Tuesday. The BBB leader urged Rutte to admit defeat on his nitrogen emissions reduction policy which has resulted in nationwide protests among rural communities and propelled van der Plas’ party into amassing the highest number of seats in the Dutch Senate.

“The support in the cabinet has more or less been canceled, and I wanted to know from him how seriously he takes this,” van der Plas told De Telegraaf about the meet.

“I have expressed some serious concerns. Also about the crisis of confidence in the Netherlands, sticking to 2030, and the expropriation of farmers. I told Rutte: just take it out, that will give you peace of mind,” she added.

The BBB leader revealed she would soon be taking her opposition to the Dutch government’s plans to Brussels, telling reporters she will schedule a call with EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans imminently.

“In Europe, the basic rules are laid down. Timmermans has already indicated that there is some movement on how Europe can help the Netherlands get rid of the nitrogen lock. I am now going back to the office to make an appointment with him,” she added.

Rutte offered little to the press following the meeting, claiming the pair had a “good” and “nice conversation.”

The heavy defeat of his four-party coalition government has thrown the emissions plans into jeopardy, and the minor Christian Democratic Appeal has already called for change. Party leader Wopke Hoekstra suggested on Friday his party would propose adjustments to cabinet policy, and on Tuesday morning, party colleague Pieter Heerma also called for a government reversal.

“The prime minister has indicated that this result must have consequences. There is a new reality, and the government has to relate to that,” he told reporters.

Fellow coalition partner Democrats 66 (D66), however, have dug their heels in. “We clearly stated before the elections what we think is necessary to solve the nitrogen crisis, and we still think so,” D66 party leader Jan Paternotte said on Tuesday.

“The problem has not changed. We have to go on!” added D66 MP and environmental spokesman Tjeerd de Groot.

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