Do or die day for Justice Min. Ard van der Steur
Today is sink or swim for Minister Ard van der Steur. At 10:15 a.m. he faces the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, in the second attempt for a debate on the terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22nd. Whether Van der Steur survives the day as Minister of Security and Justice, remains to be seen.
Van der Steur has to defend himself and his Ministry over what seems like an endless series of mistakes and missteps surrounding Ibrahim El-Bakraoui and his brother Khalid - two of the three suicide bombers that attacked the Belgian capital just over two weeks ago.
A week and a half ago, during the first attempt of this debate, the debate was postponed because Van der Steur was too unprepared, the parliamentarians felt. They gave him 68 additional questions to answer and sent him on his way to do his homework. Embarrassing for the Minister, but better than demanding his departure on the spot. So it seems clear that the Kamer is willing to give Van der Steur one last chance.
The debate seems set to focus on suicide bombers the brothers El-Bakraoui. Ibrahim was deported to the Netherlands in July last years. Initially the Ministry of Security and Justice had no idea what the Turkish president was talking about when he made this revelation - the note on the deportation, sent to the Dutch Embassy in Ankara, went unnoticed.
Then it turned out that the American authorities - Van der Steur first claimed the FBI, then changed it to the New York Police Department - sent the Netherlands information that the El-Bakraoui brothers each had a long criminal and terrorism background. This happened six days before the attacks in Brussels.
The Ministry stated that this information was shared with Belgium, something the Belgians deny. Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon called the information exchange regarding these two suicide bombers "hazy". Which leads to another question Van der Steur will have to answer - would the information exchange have been clearer if the Ministry had not decided to scrap the position of liaison officer in Belgium?
Despite all this Van der Steur may well walk out of the debate still the Minister of Security and Justice. As long as he is "well prepared" with "a clear story", as ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers said to BNR. While the PVV and SP seem to have already given up on him, the CDA and PvdA are still keeping all options open. Van der Steur's own party VVD also believes that the way is still open, according to the broadcaster. As long as Van der Steur can convince the Kamer that he is still in control of his Ministry, he should be alright.