Remkes Nitrogen Plans Mediator, Farmers Find Choice ‘Nonsense’

Johan Remkes becomes a mediator in the discussions between farmers and the cabinet about the nitrogen plans. The 71-year-old VVDer will start preparations on 13 July and the dialogue will start in the second half of August, reports the Ministry of Agriculture.

โ€œThe appointment of an independent interlocutor is important to better understand each others concerns and emotions,โ€ reports the ministry. On Friday, the cabinet announced that a mediator would be coming to get the conversation with the farmers started. Especially in the vicinity of nature reserves, many farmers will have to stop according to cabinet plans.

Remkes familiar with nitrogen file

As a driver, VVDer Remkes has a long track record. He was, among other things, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister, Secretary of State, Commissioner of the King, Acting Mayor and Informator. In addition, he led the Advisory College of Nitrogen Issues.

In that role, in 2020, he expressed considerable criticism of the cabinet plans at the time. At the time, the urgent advice of the college was not to reduce nitrogen emissions by 26 percent by 2030, as the cabinet first wanted, but by 50 percent, which has now also become the target.

Farmers very skeptical

Farmers organization react skeptically to Remkes appointment. The moderate LTO calls him an โ€œadministrative heavyweight with deep knowledge of the nitrogen fileโ€ and is in principle open to a conversation, but the LTO does want discussion about the cabinet goals and the timeframe to be possible. Prime Minister Rutte has already said that they are not in question.

The more activist groups Agractie and FDF do not have a good word for the cabinets choices. Remkes does not enjoy confidence in the sector, according to Agractie; the group speaks of a nonsensical choice.

Farmers Defence Force also sees no salvation in a dialogue as long as the nitrogen plans remain afloat. Vice President Jos Ubels tells the ANP that he does not want to sit down with Remkes โ€œfor piet snotโ€.

Snags

A number of opposition members in the Chamber are critical of Remkes appointment. According to Caroline van der Plas of the Boerburger Movement, the House of Representatives should have played a role in the appointment of a mediator. She praises Remkes track record, but questions his independence, since he is a VVD member and was the author of the report of the Advisory College of Nitrogen Issues in 2020.

Wybren van Haga of BVNL calls Remkes appointment โ€œcunning political provocation of a peasant uprisingโ€. GroenLinks MP Laura Bromet calls mediation โ€œalways goodโ€ but also says: โ€œWe also had two ministers before this crisis, didnt we?โ€

Experts point out that mediation in the nitrogen problem can have advantages, but that the cabinet should not think too lightly about it. One of the critical questions that live is exactly what is being brokered about, as Prime Minister Rutte said โ€œthat we are honest with each other that the speed and objectives are not in questionโ€.