The youngest member of the Rutte IV cabinet knows what it‘s like to work with political parties who think differently about philosophical issues or medical ethics files. ChristenUnie politician Maarten van Ooijen spent three and a half years as alderman in Utrecht in a college with GroenLinks and D66.
He will probably come back to that cooperation in interviews in the coming period, to indicate that it can indeed be: stepping into a coalition with a political opposite. Because although D66 and ChristenUnie find each other in greening and refugee policy, they are in other respects diametrically opposed to each other.
The benjamin (31) of the new cabinet finds it “incredibly exciting”, he said after his conversation with formist Mark Rutte. He hopes to bring “maybe a little impetus” with his youthfulness. “But if the only thing they say about me is that I’m so young, it‘s not good.”
Infinite Waiting Lists
The brand new secretary of State for Youth Care and Prevention will find piles of reports in his desk drawer about persistent problems in youth care, which has been taken care of by the municipalities and no longer by the government since 2015. Never ending waiting lists, ‘care cowboys‘ who are particularly interested in making profits and the most vulnerable children who don’t get the help they need: Van Ooijen will have his hands full. “I will fight for every child, every day,” he said after his conversation
It will also be his task to make the agreements of his predecessor and party mate Paul Blokhuis come into reality in the National Prevention Agreement. Tackling smoking, overweight and problem drinking will be seen by many Dutch people as patronizing, not to mention the opposition of manufacturers of medicines such as beverage and tobacco.
“Blokhuis left something fantastic behind,” says Van Ooijen. “He‘s an example for me. It’s big shoes to get in.”
Best young driver
Van Ooijen, who grew up in the Betuwe, studied sociology and public administration in Utrecht. He continued to live in that city, became councilor and group chairman and ended up in Kanaleneiland, a neighborhood that is not a problem district for him. “Here, the residents teach me what is really important in life,” he told the EO two years ago. In that same interview, he mentioned his impatience as a point of improvement.
In Utrecht, friend and enemy praise his ability to connect. Social media features videos of the alderman dancing with lonely people, or talking to homeless people in a shelter. His lightning career in Utrecht politics earned him the title ‘Best Young Director of the Netherlands’ in 2019, awarded by the Dutch Government magazine.
The party summit of the Christian Union thanked the old-timers Slob and Blokhuis for proven services in the national administration and advanced the nationally unknown politicians Henk Staghouwer and Maarten van Ooijen. That the 31-year-old politician is now allowed to work in The Hague says a lot about the trust that he enjoys within his party.