Many people support farmers' cause, not method; Remkes appointed as mediator
Many Dutch people support the cause of farmers who are protesting the Cabinet’s proposed nitrogen emission policy, although they don’t necessarily agree with the method of the demonstrations, according to a survey from Hart van Nederland. The survey results come as Johan Remkes (VVD) has been appointed mediator between the agricultural sector, the Cabinet and other interested parties.
The survey of 4,100 participants revealed that 54 percent of people are behind the farmers. One participant called The Hague an “ivory tower” that is increasingly detached from the everyday citizen. “It is high time that they realize that they are working for us and not the other way around.”
However, 43 percent of the participants thought the most recent protests by the farmers had gone too far and might hurt rather than help their cause in the long run. "If the actions of the farmers will affect the normal citizen [too much], then they will eventually lose the support of the people. They have to watch out for that,” said one respondent, according to Hart van Nederland.
The atmosphere between farmers and the government is tense due to what many farmers see as an overly-harsh plan to curb nitrogen emissions. In response, farmers’ protests have become more extreme over the past week, with one demonstration outside Nature and Nitrogen Minister Christianne van der Wal’s house resulting in multiple arrests.
Amid the controversy, Remkes is stepping in to lead discussions between the farmers and politicians. The Tweede Kamer had asked for such a mediator because of the fierce reaction from the agricultural sector to the far-reaching nitrogen plans.
Remkes will start preparing from July 13 and the talks are expected to begin in the second half of August, agriculture minister Henk Staghouwer wrote in a letter to the Tweede Kamer. The VVD member has experience as a director and is often called upon as a crisis manager, for example after political problems in Limburg and The Hague. He was also asked last year to aid the lengthy government formation process.
He is also no stranger to the nitrogen dossier, having led a committee that wrote two important reports on the nitrogen approach. In it, Remkes advised that the targets which some farmers are now opposing –– three quarters of the protected nature below the critical nitrogen limit and halving nitrogen emissions –– be kept.
Vice chairman Jos Ubels of the Farmers Defense Force, which has thrown its support behind some of the more controversial farmers’ protests, criticized Remkes’ appointment. He said many farmers will probably not be willing to enter talks with the politician.
"The Cabinet is making blunder after blunder and now they are sending out a mediator who must enter into the conversation unilaterally without being allowed to alter the goals," Ubels said. "I wonder what should be said in such a conversation."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times