The Dutch Are More Eurosceptic than the British: Netherlands MP Thierry Baudet
Thierry Baudet, a Dutch member of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) who leads the Forum for Democracy party (Forum voor Democratie or FvD), spoke to the PanAm Post during last month’s launch of the Conservatives International movement in Florida.
Baudet, a journalist, author, and legal scholar who entered the Tweede Kamer for the first time after the March, 2017 Dutch general election, in which his eurosceptic party won two seats in the lower chamber, stated that he decided to move from academia and the think-tank world into politics because “something really had to change and we needed more than just academic publications and debates; we needed a change at the political level as well.”
Baudet said that, at the European level and in the Netherlands in particular, there are “uncontrolled immigration problems and a political elite that is unwilling to do something about it.” Another problem, he added, is “an ever expanding European Union that takes away from the nation states more and more sovereign power.” The combination of mass immigration and the dilution of national sovereignty, he affirms, “is a very dangerous development and we have to change it.”
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Are Baudet’s euroscepticism and his party’s opposition to the European Union similar platforms to those of Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid)? Baudet thinks that Wilders goes too far in his rhetoric, “and that way loses the ability to convince the people to move in a different direction.” Although Wilders is in opposition, Baudet argues, his extreme policy proposals like demanding that the Koran and all mosques be banned in Holland
are not feasible and not realistic. So there’s a stalemate situation in the Netherlands in which, on the one hand, we have the main political parties that want to continue the project of gradual dilution of the nation state, and, on the other hand, we have the populist response to it, Mr. Wilders’s party, which is not a realistic alternative.
Open Borders and the Welfare State Are a Disastrous Combination
“So there’s a vacuum there, a huge niche,” Baudet says, for a serious, moderate and liberal nationalist party, “which is the one I founded.”
Rather than proposing to stop all immigration into the Netherlands, for instance, Baudet proposes an “Australian model” with yearly immigration targets decided in parliament, where “we decide as a country who to admit and who not to admit.” Above all, however, “open borders and the welfare state are a disastrous combination.”
Baudet points out that the FvD has been doing well in recent polls after its initial electoral success in March. In part, this is due to Holland’s firmly rooted euroscepticism, which showed its full force in 2005, when a majority of voters rejected the European Constitution in a referendum.
As Baudet explains,
one of the things that people misunderstand about the Netherlands is that, because our political elites have been very pro-EU and pro-internationalist and supranationalist, the Dutch population has not been.
For decades, however, the opinion polls have shown that “the majority of the Dutch have been very sceptical of the increased powers of the European Union.” In the 2005 referendum, “almost two thirds of the Dutch population rejected the proposed EU constitution.”
The Dutch Might Be More Eurosceptic than the British
He also refers to the April, 2016 referendum in which a majority of Dutch voters rejected the EU’s expansion through closer links with Ukraine, a referendum which Baudet and the FvD helped to bring about by collecting citizens’ signatures. For Baudet, the main issue at stake was the EU’s imperial overstretch and the delicate geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe:
Do we need a European Union that, with so many things not in order in its present form, that continues to expand and enlarge its scope and take on more responsibilities, and take on a role in a geostrategic conflict that is going on in the Ukraine that is very, very complicated? Do we really need our EU to do that, or can we as national states deal with these issues much better?
Well, that was certainly the view that the Dutch voters took, and again we had an almost two thirds majority No vote on this. So again we see a very eurosceptic population in the Netherlands and the apex of that was reached two and a half months ago when the opinion polls showed that 56% of the Dutch preferred a future for their country outside the EU. These figures are higher than the Brexit vote.
Why the EU Is not Working
While the Dutch economy has been open to the world for many centuries, the European Union, says Baudet, is not working.
The euro currency is destroying the economies in the south, and it’s also very bad for the economies and pensions savings in the north. The open borders do not work. The system of regulation that strangles our economies is not working; it’s not flexible enough for all our different economies of the European Union… We should talk to each other. We should be good friends and good neighbors, but not part of a continental superstructure.
Baudet notes that, despite the international press claiming that the EU was one of the winners of the 2017 Dutch elections, the parties that control at least 55% of the Dutch parliament “campaigned on an anti-immigration platform,” and that includes the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
According to Baudet, “it’s not true that the open-minded, open-borders kind of people won the elections,” and even Rutte’s party campaigned on a Euroseceptic platform. But
the reality is that once they’re reelected, once they’re in power again, they start making pro-EU decisions. So we see a deceit of the people where they’re being promised more national sovereignty, more control over their immigration and less EU, but what happens is the opposite.
Under this context, Baudet finds that “new political parties have a great future.”
The European Union: an Experiment against Reality
Why are national politicians who promise to strengthen national sovereignty averse to oppose EU encroachment once in office? For Baudet, the main reason is
that they have ambitions in the EU. They are national political leaders but are really aiming for the next step, and that is one of the problems we have in the Netherlands, but I think it’s the case in almost all European countries. Our political leaders are not representatives of the people in our capitals, they are representatives of Brussels in our capitals.”
What will the EU look like in a decade? Baudet argues that there are two different alternatives:
The first is what I call the Czechoslovakia scenario, and the second is the Yugoslavia scenario. I think the European Union is an experiment against reality. It’s something that cannot continue to exist because the differences between the nation states are too great… (including) the moral and ethical intuitions of different countries.
But it remains to be seen whether this inevitable breakup of the EU is going to be peaceful and orderly and friendly and decent and properly arranged, like the breakup of Czechoslovakia in the early 1990’s, or if we’re going to get a very bloody and very painful and very difficult, perhaps even violent breakup that will perhaps remind us more of Yugoslavia.
The Czechoslovakia Option
Baudet adds that, since the EU’s dismantlement is inevitable in his view, there is a need for political leaders who will “choose the Czechoslovakia option.”
If this were in fact to take place, how would relations between European states function? On the eve of the official dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Vladimir Meciar, the Slovak Prime Minister, stated that “living together in one state is over. Living together in two states continues,” and so it has. Perhaps Europhiles should begin to study that good example in earnest.