Many VVD members oppose nitrogen plan; Van der Wal will not make adjustments
A narrow majority of VVD members believe the Cabinet's nitrogen plans go too far, opposing the strategy for reducing emissions laid out by their own minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen). However, Van der Wal will not make adjustments, leaving it up to the Tweede Kamer to enforce any changes through the debate on the Cabinet plan.
The VVD members believe the nitrogen plan presented on Friday goes too far, as many farms would have to disappear or downsize, endangering the quality of life in rural areas. A motion calling on the Tweede Kamer faction of the liberals to vote against the current Cabinet plan was supported by 51 percent of the votes during the VVD congress after a fierce and heated discussion.
In place of the current nitrogen plan, there must be a "careful, realistic and liberal nitrogen policy," dissenters argued. Although co-signed by more than 800 VVD members, the motion was discouraged by VVD MP Thom van Campen.
"I understand the unrest very well," Van Campen responded. But the plan is a starting point, he said. The MP believes it is important that what needs to be done in each area is considered. "Nature is in a bad state. Not everything can be done everywhere."
He advised against the motion, partly because the petitioners argue that an outdated method is being used. "We are not going to sacrifice farmers and we are not using outdated methods to calculate nitrogen emissions," Van Campen said.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he supports Van Campen's view. The prime minister added he has no understanding for the farmers who visited Minister Van der Wal at home on Friday evening and expressed their dissatisfaction with her nitrogen plan. "Demonstrations are allowed, but you should not visit people at home," Rutte said.
Rutte does not fear an exodus from the VVD, now that opinions are so divided. Canceling membership "is a choice that anyone can make, but we have had a solid and good debate. That is also part of a large people's party."
Before the vote, a fierce discussion was held by supporters and opponents of the Cabinet plan. Proponents believe that drastic measures are needed to prevent the Netherlands from being locked up and that there is no room for housing, among other things. Opponents, such as former MP Helma Lodders, believe that the plan should go back to the drawing board.
The Limburg States member Teun Heldens stated that with the plan of the Cabinet the "agricultural sector will be killed." He called on the VVD and the CDA to leave the Cabinet if the nitrogen plan goes ahead.
Despite the fact that a majority of the VVD does not support the nitrogen plan, Van der Wal does not feel that her party does not support her. "I understand the concerns. I really mean that. When I started this job, I never expected that I would win the audience award. Not in the Netherlands and not in my own party."
Nitrogen emissions must be halved throughout the Netherlands, according to the Cabinet plan that Van der Wal presented on Friday. In a large number of areas, the nitrogen percentage has to be reduced much further. These include the Gelderse Vallei, Noord-Brabant and Limburg. In addition, the nitrogen content in the protected Natura 2000 areas must be reduced by 95 percent. Many farms will have to end their business in the coming years.
Reporting by ANP