European commissioner Frans Timmermans has put himself forward to lead the joint PvdA/GroenLinks campaign for the November general election and has told commission president Ursula von der Leyen that he is planning to quit, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday.
Timmermans, 62, is a former MP for the PvdA and served as foreign affairs minister in Mark Rutte’s second cabinet, but left in 2014 to take up a job at the European Commission.
He is currently deputy chairman of the commission and in charge of the block’s Green Deal, which aims to make the EU climate neutral.
“It is time the Netherlands became united again instead of fracturing even more,” Timmermans told broadcaster NOS in an interview. “We must make sure the country regains its confidence,” he said.
Timmermans said the Netherlands is facing “huge challenges” such as climate change, war on the borders of Europe and inequality. “We can only solve this by standing shoulder to shoulder,” he said.
On immigration Timmermans said he favoured a “strict but just” policy. “But don’t talk to me about separating families because that wouldn’t happen on my watch,” he said, referring to the family reunification issue which put paid to the current cabinet.
Timmermans, who would bring a wealth of experience to the job, is the first person to come forward as a potential joint campaign leader for the GroenLinks/PvdA slate.
Amsterdam’s PvdA leader Marjolein Moorman said last week she would think about potentially going for the role over the summer but according to the Volkskrant, has thrown her weight behind Timmermans.
Earlier this week, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said that much as he would like the job, he feels it should be done by a new face.
The Volkskrant said the two parties leaderships are set to endorse Timmermans candidacy in August and are keen to avoid a destructive leadership contest.
Members of the two parties have also voted overwhelmingly in favour of the partial merger and two opinion polls so far indicate it could be a big vote winner.
The election campaign would see Timmermans pitted against the VVD’s favoured candidate, justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz and the BBB’s Caroline van der Plas.