The cabinet and the majority of the House of Representatives await Johan Remkes‘ conclusions on how to tackle the nitrogen problem. Exactly what that means remains unclear for the time being. The House interrupted the recess today and debated the statements of Deputy Prime Minister and CDA leader Hoekstra last week all day long. He announced in AD on Friday that it is “not sacred” for the CDA to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50 percent everywhere by 2030.
Both Prime Minister Rutte and Hoekstra said today that the coalition agreement (in which the 50 percent reduction was agreed by 2030) is standing, but they both acknowledged that that ‘chafes‘ with Hoekstra’s statements in Friday‘s newspaper.
Prime Minister Rutte addresses questions from Farid Azarkan (Denk) whether Hoekstra’s interview chafes with the cabinet position:
Minister Hoekstra underlined that he stands behind his statements in the interview. He understands the inconvenience about this and the constitutional sensitivity (a member of the cabinet who publicly questions the coalition agreement), but he felt that, as CDA leader, he was also allowed to speak out about it once “now that this affects society and our supporters so much”.
Both Rutte and Hoekstra expressed their confidence to continue with each other. They now want to wait for the report that interlocutor Remkes draws up after completion of his consultation with those involved in the nitrogen problem. That report is expected in a few weeks. The Prime Minister said he does not want to anticipate that.
Hoekstra says in the debate that in some situations 2030 is not feasible:
The group chairmen of the governing parties VVD and D66, Hermans and Paternotte, emphasized that the coalition agreements are unchanged. At the end of the debate, Paternotte acknowledged that you have to be a “Parliamentary Studies” to be able to follow it.
Christenunion party leader Segers called the year 2030 “no totem pole” in the debate. But for him, too, all goals stand up. “Until we agree otherwise,” he added. CDA party leader Heerma stands behind Hoekstra. According to Heerma, his party leader has “given a necessary statement to break the impasse”.
Criticism and acclaim
In the debate, there was criticism from many sides of the way Hoekstra expressed his concerns. Hermans called the timing strange and part of the opposition believes that the CDA leader should have unconditionally supported Minister Van der Wal. GroenLinks leader Klaver and others said that the unity of cabinet policy is at stake, now that Hoekstra is allowed to comment publicly on the policy and it will take weeks before it is clear how the nitrogen approach is now proceeding.
In terms of
content, Hoekstra received both criticism and acclaim: the left-wing opposition believes that the cabinet should stick to 2030 as a hard deadline. BBB leader Van der Plas just said that Hoekstra “finally showed balls” by not calling 2030 sacred. But at the end of the debate, opposition motions for or by 2030 as a hard date did not make it. The government parties voted against all these motions. A motion of no confidence (by Wilders and SP leader Marijnissen) also did not receive a majority.
It was intended that D66 leader and Deputy Prime Minister Kaag would also be at the debate. But she reported ill this morning: she had become unwell and had to go to the hospital to do so. Later, Prime Minister Rutte reported that she is doing better again and that she hopes to return to work soon.
Substantial package of purchasing power
The debate was mainly about nitrogen, but the major concerns about purchasing power were also addressed. In the coming days, the cabinet will consider the budget for next year, which will be submitted on Prinsjesdag. Minister Van Gennip of Social Affairs said it will be a substantial package of measures. The starting points are that the vulnerable are protected, that the middle groups are supported and that work pays off, says Van Gennip.
She also said the cabinet is talking to energy companies about measures to prevent payment problems with customers.
In the House, many parties not only asked for purchasing power measures for next year, but also for this year. Van Gennip and Rutte reiterated that they look at it “with an open mind”, but that they do not want to raise expectations that they cannot live up to.