Dutch PM understands Zelenksyy's plea for more help for Ukraine
Prime Minister Mark Rutte understands Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's call to quickly make his country a candidate for EU membership and to declare more sanctions against Russia. But it cannot happen "overnight," the Rutte said in response to Zelenskyy's address to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament.
"Of course. He wants more. He wants more. He wants to enter Europe faster. He wants to get rid of Russian oil and gas faster, close those ports faster. I understand that. But we have to do that while measuring the interests broadly," Rutte said after the speech. According to him, Europe can't get rid of Russian gas overnight. The government must prevent nursing homes from being left in the cold or companies no longer being able to operate, he said. More countries in the EU share this view.
According to him, Zelenskyy also understands the position of the EU Member States. Contacts with the Ukrainian government are "extremely warm and intensive," Rutte said, pointing out that "unprecedented sanctions" have already been announced against the Russian regime.
The fact that Russia and Ukraine are negotiating does not mean that the Netherlands should stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra said. "It is exactly the other way around. The stronger on the battlefield, the stronger at the negotiating table," Hoekstra said. The Netherlands will continue to supply weapons.
According to Hoekstra, the Netherlands must "do the maximum to make Ukraine's position at the negotiating table as strong as possible." He wants to achieve this by supporting the Ukrainian armed forces, but he also believes that European sanctions contribute to this. Reaching a peace agreement does not mean that everything is "forgiven and forgotten," he added. "Because there are thousands of victims. Billions in damage have been caused. International law has been trampled. Everything we stand for when it comes to the rule of law has been pushed aside by Putin and his entourage."
Ruling party VVD said it wants to see whether the Netherlands can do more to stop Russia. "We have to keep increasing the pressure," said parliamentarian Rolien Kamminga in the debate after Zelenskyy's address. She wants to look at arms supplies, compliance with sanctions, and the Dutch energy supply. According to the VVD, "more is at stake" than Ukraine alone. "It is about freedom and security in Europe and the values and principles in the future world order."
Zelenskyy'z call to help rebuild his country was well received by coalition parties CDA and ChristenUnie. "A wonderful idea," CDA MP Agnes Mulder called his incentive to choose a city in Ukraine to rebuild. The Christian Democrat was impressed by the president's speech. "His words touched us." She wants to do even more to "expel the tyranny" and asked the Cabinet whether it could do more in terms of arms and sanctions.
ChristenUnie MP Don Ceder called on the Cabinet to take Zelenskyy's request to help rebuild "seriously" and make preparations. "This war, too, will come to an end one day." Ceder also thinks more should be done in the area of sanctions.
D66 parliamentarian Sjoerd Sjoerdsma finds it necessary to consider whether the Netherlands can supply Ukraine with more military equipment. The ruling party also believes that Ukraine should quickly become a candidate for EU membership and that the government should pay more attention to seizing Russian-owned real estate in the Netherlands.
PVV parliamentarian Sietse Fritsma praised Zelenskyy and his country for their resilience but believes they should consider how the war could be ended. "What is of the utmost importance now is that we work for peace." According to Fritsma, the Russian invasion has not defeated Ukraine, but he thinks it is more important "that the agony of the Ukrainian population stops as soon as possible." He asked the Cabinet to explain how it would support "that much-needed peace process."
GroenLinks wants the Cabinet to announce within a month how it plans to get off Russian coal, oil, and gas. "That is going to have a huge impact on our lives. But its impact on us is only a fraction of what people in Ukraine experience," leader Jesse Klaver said. "36 days of war, and people are already getting used to it. Those are the words that struck me," he said, referring to Zelesnkyy's speech. According to Klaver, it is "the responsibility of all of us not to let that happen."
The debate in the Tweede Kamer about the war in Ukraine was cut short on Thursday afternoon because parliament was not satisfied with the information provided by the Cabinet. Foreign Minister Hoekstra said the Cabinet is working hard on implementing sanctions but could not answer several questions about this. The members of parliament were annoyed that he repeatedly deflected questions to other ministries.
Hoekstra responded to the criticism, saying he did not believe the Netherlands was hopelessly behind in implementing and complying with European sanctions against Russia. Still, parliamentary factions want to see the process sped up. Hoekstra was pressed for more concrete information, but he was unable to meet their demand. This could lead to more Cabinet ministers dropping in to answer questions when debate resumes later Thursday evening.
In addition to concerns about speed, MPs also said that not enough Russian money had been frozen. They also wonder why they have not heard whether real estate assets have been seized. "That is happening in neighboring countries," said Pieter Omtzigt.
At the beginning of next week, the Tweede Kamer will be informed about how the various Ministries are implementing sanctions, Hoekstra promised. The Cabinet will also look at prior transactions by Russians in the Netherlands, but only if it is legally and logistically possible, Hoekstra said.
Reporting by ANP.