Former Dutch spy chief Dick Schoof nominated prime minister in Wilders coalition

Screenshot, Dick Schoof (left) said he knew Geert Wilders a little before he was nominated for prime minister.

  • Author, Paul Kirby
  • Role, bbc news

After 14 years of Mark Rutte as Dutch prime minister, the four parties that will make up the new Dutch coalition have appointed a former head of national intelligence to replace him.

Dick Schoof, 67, said he would be prime minister for all Dutch people, not just the four parties that elected him.

“For me this is a very intense moment, I would never have expected to be asked to appear here,” he told reporters.

Anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders won the Dutch election last November and eventually reached a coalition deal with three other parties after agreeing not to run for the top job.

Under the 25-page agreement, Wilders’ Freedom Party and the other three leaders of his coalition agreed that they would remain in parliament outside the cabinet, while about half of the ministers would be elected outside politics.

They have promised the “strictest asylum regime ever” as well as tighter controls on migrants and international students and strict limits on family reunifications for refugees.

Wilders had already abandoned some of his party’s plans, such as banning the Koran, before the election, but stood firm on some of his immigration policies, which will cause friction with some of the Netherlands’ partners in the EU. .

The conservative-liberal VVD party, the centrist New Social Contract and the Peasant Citizen Movement (BBB) ​​accepted the agreement.

Dick Schoof has spent his entire career in public service and is currently the highest-ranking official in the Ministry of Justice. He previously headed the Netherlands’ AIVD internal security service, as well as the counter-terrorism agency and the immigration service.

He said focusing on the rule of law would help him govern the Netherlands. His experience in the Ministry of Justice can also help him address some of the coalition’s biggest ambitions.

Schoof said he knew Geert Wilders “a little” but stressed that he had been appointed by four parties that had a large majority in parliament. Asked whether he or the leader of the far-right party would be boss, he said: “There is only one prime minister and that will be me.”

He flatly rejected any suggestion that he might act as if he were under Geert Wilders’ leash, but admitted being surprised by his nomination for the top job.

In a recent interview, Dick Schoof was asked how the election result could affect his role in public service.

“It is a sign that many people do not have confidence in the government’s ability to solve problems, and perhaps not in each other either,” he told the Green Amsterdammer newspaper. “And, of course, it’s not the case that just because a quarter of voters support the (Freedom Party), suddenly a quarter have got it all wrong.”

Although he was a member of the Labor Party for decades until just a few years ago, he told reporters on Tuesday that he no longer felt any affinity with it.

His appointment came after the first prime ministerial candidate, Ronald Plasterk, had to withdraw after Dutch media reports questioned his integrity.

The next step for the future prime minister will be to form a ministerial team, together with the man leading the process, Richard van Zwol. The cabinet could be formed by the end of June, before the summer recess.