Dutch budget talks and generic policy discussions in parliament taken hostage by 'freedom of speech' of Wilders

This is a blog for the foreign readers, interested in finding out what's happening in the Netherlands political debate since Wilders was acquitted from hate speech.

Well the short update is the following:
1- many politicians were awkwardly silent when the Norwegian shooting occured; although it was quite clear that this shooting better proved the existence and cross-border impact of Wilders hate speech than the local Dutch court dared to conclude.
2- Wilders keeps on banging the drum that Greece should be kicked out of the euro; as a result the PvdA (Labour) challenges Wilders to stop supporting this minority cabinet or otherwise be silent,
3- Wilders now helps out a cabinet with a set of cutbacks that are contrary to his election promises, and seeks to divert attention,
4- the strategy of Wilders to divert attention was a full-out indecent and improper behaviour during yesterdays and todays Parliamentary discussions on budget and future strategy of the Dutch government (read the dutch report here).

My personal impression was that, as is often the case with narcist people, the words of Wilders said more of himself than of the subject or person at hand. And the fact that Wilders had to resort to so many unsubtleties shows two things:
- psychologically he has concluded - in his head - that with the acquittal of the penal court, he has firmly gained and established the right to freedom of speech and the right to express himself any way he likes; there is no stopping Geert now as he thinks the judge has now not only acquitted him, but also issued him a license to insult,
- politically, he is playing his old record/song (personal attacks, indecent inferrals and wording) louder and louder in order to gain attention from media and electorate; yet, now that he supports the government, the opposition is smart enough to point out to the people that Wilders is all talk, no action.

Effectively Wilders is eager to exercise his rights but never present when it comes to honouring obligations that come with the rights. So below I have listed some of his words, translated, to illustrate how Wilders uses his right to freedom of speech in Dutch parliament and ignores his obligation to show conduct an MP becoming. And do note that many other subtle hints in body language, tone and frasing, are untranslatable.

To Cohen, leader of the PvdA
-Well you can bleat all you want but at the end of the day you are the company poodle of this cabinet.
-I'll say it once again and it hurts, but you are the company poodle
-You are the toy dog, the poodle of the Cabinet.

To the chair of Parliament:
-Wilders (when meaning to talk to Cohen): ..you are the co-muddler of this government.
-Chair of Parliament: Mr Wilders you were going to try to talk via the chair of Parliament. I am not a co-muddler.
-Wilders: Not yet, so much is true.

About MP Peters (when characterizing Green Left as a 'beach-party' this summer:
.. and Mrs Peters was somewhere mixing up her interests (inuendo to an affair that became part of a public and political discussion).

To Mr Pechtold
I am not sure if there was a question, but let me try to answer this dhiarrea of Mr Pechtold..

About Secretary of state Albayrak
While Albayrak still recieved criminal strangers open armed, giving a general pardon away - I don't know if she did it in cooperation with her niece - we now really deal with criminal strangers.

To Green Left:
Objection noted. The Beach Party apparently does not agree.

About A director of a hospital
We have a concern with care-directors at the top (using the word bobo's which is a denigrating term for rich, ignorant directors).

About himself, when adressed about courtesey in parliament
We at the PVV enjoy a strong debate. One time it is courteous, the other time sharp and sometimes both. It's all part of the game and we will never change our ways.

Latest update: Wilders provoking the Minister President and parliament ignoring him
Yesterdays improper behaviour of Wilders resulted in 120 letters being sent to parliament. And some MPs, notable Roemer (Socialist Party) yesterday desired a written declaration of the Minister President Rutte on how he qualified the wording of Wilders. Prime Minister Rutte chose to do that at the end of todays session. And that was a solid choice, because a good discussion followed during todays session in parliament.

Until somewhere this afternoon Rutte denounced the wording of Wilders the day before and Wilders started rebutting, throwing in the remark (in sort of cockney style): 'Hey man, act normal.' So Wilders had chosen to increase the stakes by now provoking the Prime Minister. What then happened was quite interesting.

The chair of Parliament asked both Wilders and Rutte to behave and a discussion occured between members of parliament and Rutte on whether this verbal behaviour of Wilders was suitable. Rutte distanced himself completely from the wording of Wilders (yesterdays wording in particular) and explained: 'Well, we always knew this was a package deal. With Wilders we will get some support and because of the support we carry on as a government. But we also know his style to be provocative and at some times its best to not react and clearly state that this is unsuitable.'

Although Cohen outlined that this was too distanced a response by Rutte, the members of Parliament chose to discuss norms and behaviour at another time and to go on with the discussion. Also, the Minister President Rutte acknowlegded that as politicians we are struggling with how to deal with these provocations by Wilders. He literally said: "we know that the style of Wilders is to throw in some red meat in the arena sometimes". And having discussed the topic, VVD-leader Blok (who previously had outlined that he was not joining the debate because he had no intention to be provoked) simply suggested to move on. Which happened and was a new thing for this parliament.

Essentially Wilders provocation was ignored. With Wilders then stating that what he said was almost the same wording as used in previous years by other politicians. But that was a feeble attempt to communicate to his followers that once again Wilders was being discriminated against by the regular politicians.

The 'magic' of Wilders is fading quickly now
All in all, this is some interesting development here in the Netherlands. The content-less provocations of Wilders are no longer discussed as true suggestions but viewed and treated for what they are. Simple provocations that aim to make himself look as the reasonable guy that dares to say what the public thinks. And that dares to challenge everyone.

But it does have the looks of it as if the magic fades. Everyone in public gradually starts to realize that for Wilders there are no promises that he keeps, just the promise to himself that only he is allowed to do and say as he pleases and anyone critisizing him will become his object of hatespeech and indecent wording.


Interesting development... default Greece confirmed/rumoured (sort of) by Dutch Ministry of Finance..

This morning, Bert Bruggink, CFO Rabobank, was quoted in Financieele Dagblad, saying that -looking at the markets- it was not the question if but when Greece would default. And RTL Nieuws informed the public that the Ministry of Finance was now preparing for all possible (and unthinkable) options in the crisis. Which lead to clippings in the press: 'Dutch Ministry of Finance thinks that default of Greece is imminent.'

Tomorrow, Dutch parliament will discuss the EFSF in parliament. But PvdA (Labour) does not wish to support the extension of the fund if Finland still has its demand for collateral on the table. The 'Green-Left'-party states that with the extension, the EU should also decide on the Euro-commissioner for budget (the MarkRutte proposal). And the Socialist Party doesn't want the EFSF to take over bond-buying from the ECB as, the ECB has 'unlimited funds'.

Meanwhile, national radio bulletins send out the message that sources near to the Ministry of Finance outline that it is preparing for default (19.57). While formally the Ministry may not be calling for orderly default and denies it (20.20). Which means that the 'open' and transparant communication of Minister de Jager, once again creates more confusion than necessary. It's a bit like BNP formally denying the informal rumour about its financial health.

So, looking at this confusion, it does indeed look as if the default of Greece is imminent...


Eurocrisis: a clash of old (long term) and new (opportunistic) political thinking

These days I'm trying to get my head around the current developments in international and European markets and politics. There's a real flood of former politicians emphasizing that Europe is the solution, rather than the problem (see for example the statement by the Council for the Future of Europe). And here in the Netherlands we had former Prime Minister Wim Kok as well as former Minster of Finance Gerrit Zalm explaining to us on television that we need to remember the benefits of Europe and use it as a road to the solution. And I fully agree. As a whole, the eurozone is not doing so bad, but we do have a serious internal management and discipline problem.

Leadership today may be far more difficult than when the euro was formed..
Many commentators outline that now is the time to show leadership, based on a long term vision. And that is most certainly an important element of any solution. But I sense there may be more to it. There are some tectonic plates moving beneath todays politics. And the theory that I'm forming right now, is that most commentators are overlooking the movements of those plates as they are standing on those plates themselves (and incorrectly assume that they're not moving).

My theory is that, due to these slowly moving tectonic plates in the political environment, it might be much harder for todays leaders to exhibit the same leadership as their predecessors. So the solution to the eurocrisis is not just about leadership, but requires an appreciation of those fundamental trends as well.

What are the fundamental trends that now constrain our leaders?
The slowly moving 'tectonic plates' that constrain our leaders are:
1- a long period without war and a fading memory of bad economic circumstances,
2- a growing mastering of technology, leading to a shift in risk-sensitivity and a new control-perspective on the ability to control developments,
3- less religious attitudes, loss of self-discipline and focus on individual welfare,
4- electoral behaviour that is no longer focused on full political vision or ideology but can be seen as short-term shopping behaviour; the contract term of citizen and politicians decreased considerably,
5- the rise of the internet and social media, leading to increased scrutiny by the public, less margin for politicians to implement long term solutions and to oversimplification of complex problems in the public debate.

So what am I saying is: 
1- In Europe, we have forgotten how rich we really are and where we came from. So the financial and geopolitical benefits of Europe (income, peace and peace of mind) are taken for granted. And as we grow older, this individual and collective memory fades more and more.

2- The advancing technology incites a sense of control into the modern human being and people are less inclined to accept the limitations of life; we are used to demand more, get more, expect more, demand more and so on. The succes of technology also provides us with a sense that we can control more than we really can. And it shifts our risk-sensitivity. Risks that in former times were acceptable or considered an act of God, are now subject to preventive and containment measures, with the people seeking a culprit if insufficient measures were taken. Essentially technology makes us become spoilt brats that don't want to bite the sour apple for our health if there is a sweeter alternative around the corner.

3- The increased welfare and growing economy allow for the realization of many wishes. And the traditional religions slowly lose ground to an economic religion in which there is little place for self restraint or group thinking and solidarity.

4- In the political domain, the economization also occurs and voting becomes more an act like shopping than an act like determining which church/religion you wish to belong to. The lifelong committment to ideologies fades away and needs to make place for opportunistic electoral behaviour. In turn, the political parties need to focus more on short term issues and popularity to survive and represent the interest of their electorate.

5- Whereas in former times some leeway in government and politics could be created by controlling and restraining the flow of information, the rise of Internet and social media make it almost impossible to create time/intellectual room for debate/solutions. These media also allow for collective intelligence and feedback which is very much quicker than before. So politicians can no longer design political solutions which do not work in practice or contain design-errors. Similarly they cannot decide or choose open-ended solutions, hoping that some underlying fundamental problem will be solved by time rather than politics.

Thus, in order to solve the Eurocrisis, we don't just need leadership, but also:
- increased awareness about the benefits peace, peace of mind and economic growth that Europe has brought us and brings us,
- the ability to bite through a sour apple rather than postpone solutions,
- the awareness that we're in it together, even if it doesn't feel like that,
- politicians with the leadership to appeal to the publics desire for stability and growth and the fact that only with their prolonged loyalty can the public expect a better long term outcome,
- consistent solutions to the technical, financial and political issues at stake; any backdoor or design error will get back at us within a years time-frame.

See also the Dutch version of this post here.


How political opportunity helps dampen the economy

Today the Dutch Central Bank released its economic monitor. And that monitor warned that the good times are over. We are getting depressed again and growth will slow. See below the first signs of the downturn in dark blue:

It is quite clear to me that this time, it will be hard for politicians to blame the banks or anyone other than themselves. We know from research that bad news on financial markets and stock exchanges is affecting all the people in the public (although in the Netherlands only 1/16th is actually actively holding its own securities). And it is of course not more than fair to say that it is the clumsy and opportunistic behaviour of politicians with respect to budgets and eurocrisis that have significantly contributed to the turmoil in the market, this last half year. Add to this the fact that the politicians chose to also curtail all future economic growth by imposing taxes, buffers, liquidity traps and all that stuff onto banks.

So we are now back in the dried up markets, with depressed consumer outlooks with mainly the politicians to blame. Central banks are heavily overstepping their mandates to try and save the day but still we see no signs of true leadership in the Netherlands, Europe or the US. And somehow I have the impression that it may a take quite some time before our Dutch politicians will truly acknowledge that it was their own opportunistic behaviour that helped spark this crisis and slowdown/downturn.