Dutch PM "concerned" by far-right win in Italy; Admits he was invisible in crises
Developments in Italy are “cause for concern,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in an interview on Op1 about the election victory of Giorgia Meloni’s radical-right wing Fratelli d’Italia. Rutte also admitted that criticism about him being invisible during crises like the nitrogen crisis, the benefits scandal, and the gas extraction earthquakes in Groningen was “largely justified.”
Rutte said that Meloni’s party and the right-wing parties she plans to collaborate with have “said and done things that make you say: there is reason for vigilance.” The Prime Minister has not yet congratulated Meloni on her victory. According to him, that is customary only once she is Prime Minister. He will try to work with Meloni. “You shouldn’t be naive, but you should give her a chance.”
Rutte expressed concerns about Italy after mentioning Hungary and Poland. Those countries have been on a collision course with the rest of the European Union for some time, partly because of their dealings with the rule of law. The European Commission wants to impose a sanction of 7.5 billion euros in Hungary to force Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to fight corruption and fraud in the country.
Rutte also admitted that he could have been more visible during the nitrogen crisis, the benefits scandal, and the fracking earthquakes in Groningen, among other crises. He plans to show himself more, he said in the interview with Op1 from the Catshuis. “That is why it’s so good that we’re here,” he told interviewer Sven Kockelmann. During the critical debates after Budget Day last week, there were also calls for Rutte to make himself heard, for example, about the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
The Prime Minster considered giving another speech from the Torentje, his office in The Hague. “But the downside is that no one can say anything back.” His previous Torentje speech, asking people to stay home during the coronavirus crisis, was also “a very intense moment.” But Rutte did not rule out the possibility that a Torentje speech “will be necessary again.”
According to Rutte, the criticism of the Cabinet in times of crisis is often “that something takes too long.” For example, it took a long time for the Cabinet to reassure people about the expensive energy bill. But the problems, also in the field of asylum and nitrogen, are “extremely complex,” said Rutte.
The Cabinet must take the criticism seriously, said the Prime Minister. And where files are complicated and cannot be solved just like that, the Cabinet must explain that, Rutte said.
Rutte gave the interview from the Catshuis, the Prime Minister’s official residence in The Hauge. Such an interview is rare outside of election campaigns.
Some angry farmers gathered in The Hague to protest the government’s nitrogen plans during Rutte’s interview. The police kept the protesters away from the Catshuis itself. After the interview, the Prime Minister came out in the rain to talk to the farmers, RTL Nieuws reports. It is unclear what exactly they discussed, but according to the broadcaster, the farmers had the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times