New prime minister Dick Schoof will represent “all the Dutch”

Negotiator Richard van Zwol and Dick Schoof meet the press. Photo: Ramon van Flymen ANP

Dick Schoof, the senior civil servant who is set to be the next Dutch prime minister on behalf of a right-wing cabinet, has told a press conference in The Hague that he aims to be a prime minister for all Netherlanders.

Schoof, who seemed nervous at times, stressed on several occasions that he had been appointed by all four parties and refused to comment on the far-right PVV’s policies. He said he had been appointed to put a new cabinet strategy into practice and that is what he intended to do, while serving the public good.  

The coalition agreement, he said, is an ambitious one with proposals for a large number of issues – getting a grip on immigration and asylum, financial security for families and farmers, and international security. “This is why I am standing here,” he said.  

In the coming days, work will start on putting together a new team of ministers, he said, and that would involve “the people with and for whom were are doing it”, such as social organisations, public services and industry.

“As political management, we will keep working on the social issues and take the concerns of all the Dutch into account, so we can work on building trust in government.”  

Schoof, 67, is currently the most senior civil servant in the justice ministry. He has previously headed the counter-terrorism unit NCTV and the immigration service IND as well as the domestic security service AIVD. He was also head of the crisis team in the wake of the downing of MH17.

He has been put forward to lead an “extra-parliamentary cabinet” made up of political appointees and outside experts, who will all first face a grilling in parliament before they are confirmed in the job.

PVV leader Geert Wilders said he is “happy and proud” to have Schoof as prime ministerial candidate. “He has good experience on the right issues… he is an independent person who is not a member of any political party.” All four new coalition parties are behind his appointment, Wilders said.

Wilders is leader of the biggest party in parliament but failed to get the backing of the other potential cabinet partners to be prime minister himself.

“He has broad civil service experience in areas that are very important,” said NSC leader Pieter Omtzigt. “He has no political experience but will pick that up very soon.”

Thorough and expert

Schoof was formerly a member of the Labour party (PvdA), but left the party in 2021, saying he no longer felt at home there.  He is described by people who have worked with him as “expert”, “straight forward” and “thorough”. “He is possibly the most important civil servant, particularly in times of crisis,” RTL correspondent Fons Lambie said.

Schoof said in an interview with the Groene Amsterdammer earlier this year that he had difficulty with the frame which said “democracy is about to die, as a result of the election result”.

The rule of law and democracy are always subject to change, he said, adding that when it comes to anti-terrorism legislation, “we look at privacy and freedom differently today than we did 20 years ago”.

The PVV victory in the November general election, he said in the interview, “is a sign that many people no longer have faith that the government can solve things, and perhaps not in each other either.”

Coalition negotiator Richard van Zwol will continue to work with Schoof on putting together a new cabinet, a process with the deadline of June 26, one week ahead of the parliamentary recess.

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