Dutch PM confirms Hoekstra nomination as EU Commissioner amid criticism

August 25, 2023  –THE HAGUE – Outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra was nominated on Friday by the Cabinet to replace Frans Timmermans as EU Commissioner. The former leader of the CDA, who declared after the fall of the Cabinet in July that he would run again for his party in the upcoming elections in November, is expected to take the climate portfolio. On Tuesday, he will meet with European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who will assess his suitability for the job. 

Hoekstra considers it “a tremendous honor” to be chosen to succeed Frans Timmermans as Eurocommissioner. “I am going to do my very best,” Hoekstra said. He did not express surprise at his nomination, merely stating, “I can only say that I am very grateful to the cabinet.” 

He did ponder whether he should give up his prominent role in supporting Ukraine. “But no one is indispensable.” The Cabinet will continue its “full” support to Ukraine. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren will spearhead the efforts, he confirmed. 

Hoekstra received support from his fellow part member Hugo de Jonge. According to the outgoing housing minister, Christian Democrats have always been keen on climate issues because “stewardship” is vital to them. He also expressed happiness in seeing a Christian Democrat occupy the position again, noting that the “founding fathers of European cooperation” were Christian Democrats. 

In his weekly press conference on Friday, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte explained his choice. “In the coming period, what you need is someone with international experience to negotiate and bring people together. He has done that as finance minister and in foreign affairs for a few years, and he also regularly deals with issues related to climate.” 

Hoekstra’s nomination raised some eyebrows at the European level. In the European Parliament, Christian Democrats opposed Timmermans’ plans for a Green Deal, which Hoekstra is now expected to advance. Moreover, sources in Brussels reportedly preferred D66’s Sigrid Kaag to represent the EU at COP 28 later this year over Hoekstra. The major climate conference will take in the United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December. 

Another issue came from his strict stance on fiscal policy at the European level. As the Minister of Finance, Hoekstra advocated strict fiscal discipline within the Eurozone, leading to tensions with southern member states like Italy and Greece. He notably pushed for conditions on financial aid to southern member states during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

When asked if this could become problematic, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte was confident. “I don’t believe so. Then they should blame me as well, I was also a bit clumsy at the beginning. I think we addressed it in July 2020 with a decent compromise which Hoekstra and I both support, namely to provide money in exchange for necessary reforms so that countries are able to finance their own support as much as possible in case of major disasters such as a pandemic in the future.” 

A different nomination was anticipated within the Cabinet. “It’s no secret that D66, being a pro-European party, was also interested,” commented D66 Deputy Prime Minister Sigrid Kaag. Sources within the party believed that the climate portfolio matched their party’s ideals, and several D66 members were well-qualified. However, due to a combination of factors, D66 did not secure the position, as Kaag explained. 

Rutte refused to comment on other candidates for the nomination. 

Wopke Hoekstra will speak with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday. She will assess whether he is an appropriate successor to the departing Frans Timmermans. While he is expected to manage climate policy, the final decision rests with Von der Leyen. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *