Timmermans calls for long-term vision and open, green government

Timmermans at his first 'united left' party meeting Photo: S Boztas

Frans Timmermans, the new head of a left-wing coalition, has called for a long-term vision to tackle issues like inequality, climate and a government widely perceived as untrustworthy.

In the Abel Herzberglezing lecture, the former vice-president of the European Commission said the country needed “cathedral builders” with the patience to make plans for the decades ahead.

He suggested the Netherlands should have started dealing with pollution in its natural environment and more sustainable farming 20 years ago. “After all of the delaying, pushing things back and refuge in fake solutions, the problems have now become so great that intervention is unavoidable if we want Dutch nature to recover, to build properly again and for farmers to follow a sustainable path,” he said. “Everything has become more expensive, more difficult and more painful because it has been endlessly pushed forward.”

In 2015, the government invented a “PAS” emissions trading scheme for small-scale polluters such as animal farmers, which courts later ruled illegal because it said emissions would be compensated for by an unknown means at an unknown future date.

Timmermans, a former foreign minister who was responsible for the European Green Deal, has returned to Dutch politics saying he wants to tackle climate policy. But, he said in the lecture, these kinds of things can only be accomplished if there is enough trust in government.

He said that governments should untangle bureaucratic knots in order to help citizens in need, for example, scrapping the month-long waiting period for young people who need unemployment benefit in Utrecht.

He called for people in “the broad middle ground” to prepare for compromises, but also asked GroenLinks-PvdA supporters to be open-minded. “If you steer yourself towards dialogue, as we would like to do, you don’t just need to have the will to convince; you also need to be prepared to be convinced,” he said.

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