Eurozone crisis: Netherlands increasingly eurosceptic – bailout fund risks being derailed

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He has emerged as a leadership candidate for the Dutch Christian Democrats, a senior member of Mark Rutte’s coalition. The veteran politician has been a member of parliament in the Netherlands for 17 years and is considered one of the country’s leading Eurozone sceptics. He’s described as a “clever, fast and serious” politician in his homeland, with a passion for challenging corruption.

But Mr Omtzigt’s economics could prove to be much more influential on the EU’s bid to deliver its €750 billion pandemic recovery fund.

While not a leaver, he backs the Brussels project taking a more fiscally conservative approach to its spending.

His approach is echoed by a majority of CDA supporters, who oppose Ursula von der Leyen’s bailout blueprint.

Under the German’s plan, the European Commission would borrow €750billion on the international markets before handing out €500billion in grants and €250billion in loans to pandemic-stricken regions and industries.

Mr Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has signalled his willingness to support the fund, but has insisted on substantial changes before a deal can be reached.

And the added pressure of eurosceptic taking the reins of a coalition partner, he will have to be seen to drive a hard bargain when European leaders meet in Brussels for their first face-to-face discussions on the recovery fund.

Domestically political rivals will seek to use the final agreement between EU27 governments as leverage with a growing eurosceptic electorate in the Netherlands.

The CDA will continue to be the main rival to Mr Rutte’s VVD in the centre ground ahead of the next general election in 2021.

And if the prime minister was to accept a soft compromise with his EU colleagues, he would be in for a rough ride from his competitors ahead of the March ballot.

Mr Rutte has positioned himself as the most senior member of the so-called “Frugal Four” – alongside Sweden, Denmark and Austria – who are calling for fiscal discipline from Brussels.

He has also championed federalist attempts to mutualise debt or relax deficit rules.

He was considered a valuable ally of successive British governments who pushed back against integrationist attempts to hand Brussels more powers.

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A recent poll for Dutch newspaper Volkskrant from I&O Research found 61 percent of Dutch voters did not support the EU recovery fund proposal put forward by the Commission.

Resistance was highest among voters on the far-right and only four percent of voters said they were happy with the proposal.

The recovery fund will likely embolden Mr Rutte’s right-wing, anti-Brussels rivals ahead of the national election next year.

As well as the CDA, he faces stiff competition from populist leader Thierry Baudet.

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Mr Baudet had previously called for the Netherlands to leave the Eurozone and his far-right Forum for Democracy came joint first with the VVD in municipal elections last year.

Gert Wilder’s Party for Freedom also poses a serious threat after finishing second to Mr Rutte’s party at the last election.

He had once called for a referendum on the Netherlands’ membership of the EU, but has since softened his approach.

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