Into the Wilderness: What a far-right Netherlands would mean for Europe

As Geert Wilders announces a provisional coalition deal for a far-right government, Europeans should brace themselves for a new era of Dutch politics

Pieter Omtzigt (NSC), Dilan Yesilgoz (VVD), and Geert Wilder (PVV) at the presentation of the outline coalition agreement, The Hague, 16 May, 2024
Image by picture alliance / ANP | Koen van Weel
©

On 16 May, the Netherlands came one step closer to having a far-right government. After six months of negotiations, Geert Wilders’s far-right Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid – PVV), two centre-right parties, and the Farmer Citizen Movement (BoerBurgerBeweging – BBB) reached an outline coalition agreement. The deal is a mixed bag. On the one hand it sets out continued support for Ukraine and a strong commitment to NATO and the European defence industry. On the other hand, it includes plans to ask permission to opt out of the EU’s asylum and migration-policy, implement stronger border control, and aims to “do everything in their power” to water down European agricultural regulations and reduce the maximum limits for nitrogen emissions.

The deal also has a glaring omission – a candidate for prime minister has yet to be put forward.  Wilders previously agreed to abstain from the position to move negotiations forward. But, as the big winner of November’s national election, it’s on him to nominate a candidate – and it’s likely that whoever Wilders choses will echo his own populist tendencies, which he has done little to tame since his victory. He opposed the Dutch agreement on ten years of military support for Ukraine, attended this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference as honorary guest of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, and has emphasised his goal to establish the strongest Dutch immigration policy to date. And with this, the Netherlands’ reputation of being one of the more cooperative EU member states may well become a thing of the past as the country’s far-right turn becomes a reality.

Bracing for a new Netherlands

The European Union should brace itself for a Netherlands that is not so enthusiastic to stand with Brussels on key issues. While the deal reflects a renewed commitment to European security and aid for Ukraine, Dutch push-back on migration and agriculture policy risks weakening EU cooperation in two areas already under increasing pressure. Soon, the EU will also have to face a Netherlands that aims to propose an opt-out clause for asylum policies and a loosening of emissions regulations. In the not too distance future, the Netherlands could be added to the list of countries whose support for increased European collaboration can no longer be relied upon.

Potentially adding to the EU’s worries, the agreement sets out to adjust migration policies with the collaboration of “like-minded member states”. In doing so, the ruling coalition could provide right-leaning or even Eurosceptic member states with an ally to oppose the European mainstream on certain issues. 

Windmills of change

It remains to be seen exactly how the outline coalition agreement for a far-right government will translate into Dutch relations with the EU. But whatever the outcome, it signals a sharp right turn in yet another EU member state. With the European Parliament election only three weeks away, a similar result could reappear – a recent poll found that a quarter of Dutch voters will cast their ballots for PVV in June. And with that, yet another entry in Brussels’s long list of problems. 

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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