Brussels continues to counter advances by furious Dutch farmers, who oppose outright compulsory farm buyouts in the Netherlands to meet EU climate targets.
Climate chief Frans Timmermans said the European Commission would explain the green laws to Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB). However, after months of failing to reach a mutual agreement on tackling nitrogen emissions, a deal does not appear forthcoming.
The BBB triumphed in regional elections after months of widespread tractor protests that drew global attention beginning last year.
The party rode a wave of protests against the government's radical environmental policies — winning more Senate seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD party with 17 of 75 seats as the VVD dropped from 12 to 10 seats.
Founded in 2019, their meteoric rise is a significant blow for Rutte's governing coalition, casting doubt over its aim to cut nitrogen pollution on farms drastically.
The government aims to cut nitrogen emissions in half by 2030, as relatively large numbers of livestock and heavy use of fertilizers have supposedly led to levels of nitrogen oxides in the soil and water that violate EU regulations.
The BBB said the problem has been exaggerated and that proposed solutions are unfairly balanced against farmers. The proposed environmental policies are estimated to force more than 11,000 farms to close and 17,000 farmers to dramatically reduce their livestock farming.
“The Netherlands can only achieve the targets by buying out farmers and greening agriculture,” claimed Timmermans.
“Let’s invest a lot in that. Above all, we have to give young farmers a perspective for the future,” the commission vice president told the NOS broadcaster.
The BBB’s opposition to climate alarmism and the compulsory purchase of farms put it on a collision course with the ruling four-party coalition and the EU.
Timmermans, a commission vice-president, said van der Plas would be “very welcome” to visit Brussels after her landslide victory.
“We will then do the same thing we have done before with officials, which is to explain the European rules,” said the former foreign minister.
Van der Plas called for a meeting with Timmermans after reports his department had backed the farm buyouts in advice to the government. She demanded he comes to meet her rather than her travel to Brussels.
“I understand that Timmermans also often comes to The Hague so that it can be done very quickly,” said Van der Plas, keen to know the solutions proposed by Brussels on the nitrogen issue.
The vote became a de facto referendum on Rutte’s leadership, who became the leader in 2010 and is the Netherlands' longest-serving prime minister.
The BBB can now use its 17 seats in the Dutch senate to try and block farm expropriations, which Rutte says are needed to lift a court-ordered stop on nitrogen-emitting construction of roads and housing.
Van der Plas has said the movement is about more than just nitrogen and said voters are “fed up” with traditional politicians and politics, raising questions over the survival of Rutte’s ruling coalition.
While the populist movement does not want the Netherlands to leave the EU, it contends the bloc should be a common market and not a super-state.