Friday 13 December 2019

Jobs for the boys (and girls)

Ministers should finish their terms in the cabinet and not leg it to Brussels, writes Frans Weisglas.

The European Council has failed to come up with a European job scheme. I don’t mean a job scheme to provide jobs for all the unemployed workers in Europe (which I don’t think would work) but the doling out of European top jobs among countries, political parties and persons. A second attempt will be made at the end of August. Meanwhile feverish negotiations are going on behind the scenes.

The Dutch cabinet will have to make a decision about a candidate for the Dutch membership of the European Commission now that Neelie Kroes is stepping down (personally I think she should stay on for another term). As usual, lots of names are doing the rounds.

The names are invariably those of labour ministers currently in office. Minister Ploumen told broadcaster NOS that she hadn’t been asked yet but that she could confirm she is indeed a woman, and Frans Timmermans (yes, a man) is mentioned as a new European coordinator of foreign policy (the new Lady Ashton).

But the name on everybody’s lips is Jeroen Dijsselbloem who is rumoured to succeed ‘budget czar’ Olli Rehn as the next EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. It’s a logical choice taking into account Dijsselbloem’s qualities and his present temporary function as Euro group chairman.


I think it’s wrong for ministers to transfer to another function two years into a post in the cabinet. They should serve a complete term in office in The Hague. The argument that they can do as much or more for the Netherlands from Brussels is nonsensical. A European commissioner is supposed to be neutral and must avoid any hint of favouring the interests of his own country. If Ploumen, Timmermans or Dijsselbloem think Brussels preferable to The Hague they are showing a remarkable lack of faith in the viability of their own cabinet.

Dijsselbloem’s leaving would seriously destabilise the cabinet. He has a pivotal role in the ministerial team and in the negotiations with the opposition. He builds bridges between Labour and VVD and between the coalition parties and D66, ChristenUnie and SGP.

It is also said that he is a calming influence on the occasionally hot-headed Diederik Samsom


Another persistent rumour has it that Dijsselbloem will be succeeded by fellow party member Martin van Rijn. He is one of the cabinet’s most capable junior ministers and has been entrusted with the execution of the huge decentralisation operation passed by parliament recently. His leaving would be highly irresponsible.

It would be best then not to choose a successor to Neelie Kroes from among the members of the cabinet. There are plenty of other capable people outside this circle who can do the job. It’s really not necessary that he or she should be a labour party member, or belong to a party at all. We must go for the best man or woman for the job at the right moment. I have a feeling that the next commissioner’s name could very well be Alexander Rinnooy Kan. Yes, a non-active member of D66.

Frans Weisglas is a former parliamentary chairman and VVD MP.

This article was published earlier in the Volkskrant





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