Name? Mark Rutte
Westphalian identity? Dutch
Why is he in the news? Since we wrote about von der Leyen on Friday, European leaders have been negotiating over the European Covid-19 aid package. One central figure in all of this has been Mark Rutte, who prefers credits over grants and wants to make the status of the rule of law binding for allocation of money.
Why do we care? The fact that EU leaders are still negotiating can be seen in two ways. Either, if you are the media, they are not reaching a conclusion, the EU is falling apart and we are all going to die from Covid. Or, the way we see it, there is enough common ground to extend negotiations for days because the will for compromise is bigger than existing differences.
Why should you care? Let us directly quote from Friday’s daily: “If you are European, they are negotiating about your money and how it will be allocated. If you are not European, your country’s leader is probably looking at the direction this summit will take(…).”
Who else cares? Victor Orbán. He is heavily opposed to Rutte’s demand that the money is tied to the status of the rule of law according to European standards. According to Orbán, Hungary does not have any rule of law problems! At the same time, if Hungary does not have any problems with the rule of law, why is Orbán so opposed to it? We are only asking… like the EU commission….
Any further comments? In February 2021, Rutte is facing elections in the Netherlands. In 2017, his party only gained 21% of the vote (losing eight seats), while right-wing populist Geert Wilders got 13% and gained 5 seats. Wilders has been campaigning against the EU like Boris in his best days and is using every sign of weakness from Rutte at this summit to cost him valuable votes in February.