The Hague is relieved, the rest of the country in slight confusion: what is really changing in terms of nitrogen policy? | Politics

4 questionsWith a special compromise, the cabinet buys some political peace for a while, but the nitrogen train will continue to run. What will change? And does this coalition still have a future?

Niels Klaassen

“Fortunately, we have a coalition country in the Netherlands, we make compromises”, Mark Rutte praised the umpteenth deal from his years of prime minister on Friday evening. After a summer full of protests and the defeat of coalition parties in the parliamentary elections, the cabinet found a narrow way out of the impending political impasse. The current nitrogen policy will continue for the time being, but the CDA wants to renegotiate the fraught deadline of 2030 before the summer. Below are four questions about the nitrogen plans.

1. What exactly will change in current nitrogen plans?

Long story short: virtually nothing, coalition politicians admit a day after the deal. Provinces must draw up their area plans, the Agricultural Agreement with farmers and interest groups can go ahead, the buy-out scheme for farmers awaits approval from Brussels, innovation opportunities are being worked out, and the approach to major polluters continues. Even the controversial new nitrogen law – including a fraught deadline of 2030 – is being prepared further, although parliament will not decide on it for the time being. Everything ‘just goes on’, it sounds light-hearted in the party top of D66. But without the ‘delayed paralysis’ of the 2030 deadline, say CDA members.

The point of contention remains the end of the ride: when should the reduction targets be achieved? Under pressure from farmers and the BBB profit, the CDA wants to get rid of 2030 as a deadline, but other parties do not agree. This could easily have led to a cabinet break, but to prevent that, the CDA eventually came up with a ‘list’, the temporary ceasefire. Before the summer, the party wants to renegotiate the nitrogen section of the coalition agreement. Whether the coalition will come out of this together is highly questionable. VVD and ChristenUnie don’t take that year that seriously, it seems, D66 does: “It will be a very uncomfortable conversation,” says a source at D66.

2. VVD and D66 celebrate ‘acceleration’, but the 2030 discussion is being shelved. How does that rhyme?

Accelerating and braking at the same time leads to a standstill. But the parties really each give their own twist to the compromise. D66 and VVD speak of an ‘acceleration’ because a start can finally be made and all kinds of plans will be implemented faster. The CDA praises the cessation of the deadline discussion, as a result of which provinces and farmers finally get ‘space’.


This prime minister shows complete incompetence, he can only delay

Johan Vollenbroek, Environmental organization MOB

The picture to the outside world is confused, although there is consensus about the need for action. All coalition leaders believe that reductions in nitrogen emissions should be started quickly. Everything is now geared towards actually doing something on the farm and around nature reserves. There is remarkably broad agreement on this, say those involved. That also kept things together this week.

Prime Minister Rutte will speak to the press at the Ministry of General Affairs on Friday. © ANP

3. What do interest groups and opposition parties think of the compromise?

Environmental groups, interest groups and opposition parties denounce the 2030 hassle and also give their own explanation. Johan Vollenbroek of environmental organization MOB accuses Rutte of having ‘the backbone of a garden hose’: “This prime minister shows complete incompetence, he can only postpone,” says Vollenbroek, who is challenging the nitrogen policy in court. Farmers’ interest organization Agractie believes that the ‘pause button’ is logical ‘to arrive at policy in the provinces with support in the countryside and among farmers’.

Opposition parties in the House do not have a good word for the cabinet compromise. BBB leader Caroline van der Plas is surprised that Kaag ‘now suddenly’ wants to listen to criticism, but she calls on the CDA to really say goodbye to 2030: ,,We have strangled ourselves in laws and regulations. That is why we are stuck and the country is locked. Cabinet, show your balls and make an emergency law to get this country out of the nitrogen lock.” Left-wing opposition parties speak of an ’emergency action’ by an ‘impotent cabinet in crisis’. “A cabinet must govern”, said GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver. “This cabinet is only concerned with itself. It will be a tough debate.”

Next Tuesday, Prime Minister Rutte and Deputy Prime Ministers Kaag, Hoekstra and Schouten will debate with the House of Representatives.

Sigrid Kaag speaks to the press at the Ministry of General Affairs.
Sigrid Kaag speaks to the press at the Ministry of General Affairs. © ANP

4. Will the cabinet survive the new nitrogen bump?

No one at the Binnenhof dares to say that anymore. “We all want to do the right thing. Whether we can get there is something else,” said the flu-stricken D66 Deputy Prime Minister Sigrid Kaag on Friday. Although she also emphasized that the coalition has often been faced with complicated dilemmas, which it eventually came out of.

Soon after the start, the cabinet was already torn apart. When CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra first distanced himself from the coalition agreement last summer by saying that 2030 is ‘not sacred’, the division started. And now Hoekstra is practically putting one leg outside the cabinet by saying that his party wants to get rid of this paragraph. Protagonists deny that there is an atmosphere of crisis. No one has an interest in a breakup and new elections now. The line is brittle. Anyone with a marriage or relationship knows how complicated it gets when you say at home: we have a big fight, but we won’t talk it out for three months.

In the provinces, the attitude between the parties appears to be more constructive. In three provinces, scouts from new provincial governments are now opting for a collaboration between newcomer BBB and parties from left to right, from PvdA to VVD. And if they can come to an agreement in the regions, why should ‘The Hague’ not be able to?

CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra Friday evening at the press moment.
CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra Friday evening at the press moment. © ANP

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.