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More people are comparing Rutte, not to Thatcher, but rather to Cameron; for instance, Luuk Molthof, a "senior research fellow at d|part, a nonpartisan political think tank based in Berlin."

Mark Rutte is in danger of repeating David Cameron's mistakes

Like Cameron, Rutte has a history of playing into his country's soft Euroskepticism. He toned down that approach after the Brexit referendum -- having realized that a Nexit, while unlikely, cannot be entirely ruled out.

But he also seems to have concluded that, in order not to embolden the Euroskeptic opposition any further, he can't be seen to be supporting any significant increase in the Dutch financial contributions to the EU.

If Rutte's intention was to cover his Euroskeptic flank, it's easy to see why his approach during the lead-up to the EU summit has already backfired.

By rhetorically pitting the Netherlands (and the other frugal three) against the rest of the EU, Rutte created the impression that Dutch and European interests are not aligned -- whereas in fact the Netherlands has just as much at stake in Europe's recovery as everyone else.

In Cameron's case, it was obvious that his obstructionism made him few friends in Europe. By the time he wanted to negotiate a reform deal, which was meant to secure the U.K.'s stay in the EU, he had already lost a lot of goodwill. As a result, his European partners were not all that keen to help him out of the grave he dug himself.

Rutte risks spiraling down the same path. The Netherlands is in danger of succeeding the U.K. as the EU's "awkward partner." Rutte should be careful not to let this happen.

For a small member state, the Netherlands is surprisingly influential in the EU, due mainly to its close relationship with Germany. Yet Rutte's stubbornness in the recent EU budget negotiations has led to a growing rift between the two countries. In order to be able to effectively represent Dutch interests in the future, he would do well not to let this rift widen.

by Bernard on Thu Jul 23rd, 2020 at 03:04:16 PM EST
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