Doubts about new Dutch EU Commissioner: not green enough

The appointment of the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra as the new Dutch EU commissioner is still quite certain.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte has nominated Christian Democrat Hoekstra to take over the climate portfolio from Social Democrat Frans Timmermans. He resigned last week because he is returning to Dutch politics, possibly after the parliamentary elections on 22 November as the new prime minister.

There are serious doubts in the European Parliament about Hoekstra's environmental and climate vision, given that his Christian Democratic EPP group has campaigned fiercely in recent months in Brussels and Strasbourg against two major 'green' proposals for nature restoration and for pesticide reduction in Agriculture. 

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to prevent 'the showpiece' of her Commission, the Green Deal, from ending up in a danger zone and has entrusted the coordination and overarching supervision of all Green Deal tasks to her new First Vice-President, Slovak Social Democrat Maros Sefcovic. That would mean that Hoekstra would become subordinate to it.

Another reshuffling of tasks within the European Commission is also planned later this month, with the appointment of the new Bulgarian Commissioner Ivanova and the imminent departure of the Danish Commissioner Margrete Verstager. She will be the new director of the European Investment Bank later this year. 

Moreover, the appointment is for a maximum of one year at the moment, because after the European elections (June 2024) a new Commission must be put together by heads of state and government. It is not certain whether a new Dutch prime minister will plead for Hoekstra's reappointment. In theory, there is the possibility that 'Prime Minister Timmermans' will put forward his predecessor 'former Prime Minister Rutte' as a candidate.

President Ursula von der Leyen will interview Hoekstra on Tuesday. It will also become clearer about his duties. It is not certain that he will get the full climate job, but Hoekstra confirmed his ambition on Friday, calling global warming "one of the greatest themes of our time".

If Von der Leyen agrees to Rutte's nomination, Hoekstra will then have to convince the members of the European Parliament during a parliamentary hearing. That will probably happen in the second week of September. It has often happened in the past that a nominated candidate did not make it.

The left-wing members of the European Parliament have serious reservations. “It is not yet guaranteed that Parliament will support him,” says Dutch PvdA member Mohammed Chahim. “The chances of us supporting him depend on whether he surprises us during the hearing.

He will have to answer the question of whether he wants to speed up or slow down measures for climate and the environment. But we are not very excited about him,” the S&D social democrat added.

The Renew liberals and the Greens in Strasbourg have also expressed reservations about Hoekstra's lack of a 'green course'. It could come down to one or two votes.