Christian Democrat leader Wopke Hoekstra has said a target to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030, an important part of the coalition agreement, is ‘not sacred.’
In an interview with the AD, the foreign affairs minister claimed the target itself would not change, but that the deadline could be flexible.
The CDA does not want to pass the problems on to the next generations,’ he said. ‘But farmers must also be able to earn a fair living.’
Hoekstra denied caving to pressure from radical farmers’ groups who have staged dozens of protests in recent weeks by dumping waste, blocking motorways and committing arson.
Some 700 people have been arrested, including several on charges of attempted murder. In 2019, the Council of State ruled the government’s strategy for reducing excess nitrogen violated EU law, forcing the government to develop new policies to reduce nitrogen-based pollution.
Government mediator Johan Remkes has been tasked with bringing various groups together to solve the crisis. Earlier this week he criticised supermarkets for failing to attend the talks.
The 50% reduction was an important part of the coalition agreement, particularly for D66, which wants livestock herds to be reduced and for farmers to switch to less polluting methods.
Finance ministry calculations suggest 11,200 livestock farmers would have to close down and a further 17,600 would need to reduce the number of animals they keep in order to meet the targets.
Not everyone is in favour of loosening the target. Prime Minister Mark Rutte suggested Hoekstra’s comments might even violate constitutional law.
‘That interview in the AD raised eyebrows,’ Rutte told reporters on Friday. D66 leader Sigrid Kaag was also unhappy with Hoekstra’s stance.
‘I found it extremely remarkable. If you make an agreement, then you must be ready for the implementation,’ she said.
Unity among coalition partners is sacred and other cabinet members have been fired for expressing views at odds with the coalition agreement. When deputy economic affairs Mona Keijzer came out against the coronavirus pass last year, she was immediately fired.
Yesterday, leaders from the four coalition parties met at the Catshuis in The Hague to discuss a variety of issues, including the nitrogen crisis but apparently, Hoekstra did not share the CDA’s position during that meeting.
Rutte told reporters he wanted to allow the mediation process to continue. ‘We must give it space,’ he said.
Hoekstra also discussed immigration policy with the AD, saying migration needed to be reduced but refusing to offer concrete policy proposals on issues of poverty, calling on the government to spend at least €10 million to combat rising prices.
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