April 18. 2024. 12:22

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Dutch opposition slams government handling of nitrogen crisis

Opposition forces in parliament were united in criticising the government for its lacklustre and uncertain approach towards the nitrogen crisis during a parliamentary debate about the results of the recent regional elections on Wednesday.

The elections, which took place on 15 March, saw the BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB), a relatively young agrarian interest party, perform historically well and gain the most votes of any single party. The party had initially made a name for itself by opposing the government’s nitrogen policy and gaining the support of farmers and agrarian interest groups.

“Nitrogen is a symbol of everything that is not going right in this country”, BBB leader Caroline van der Plas stated during the debate, listing a number of crises the government had gone through in the past few years.

‘Fix it, or get out!’ she demanded.

Before the debate, the leaders of the opposition had convened in order to present a united front. Accordingly, harsh criticism was directed towards the governing parties.

“The coalition can exacerbate rather than solve every problem,” Labour Party (PvdA) leader Attje Kuiken said. “It makes me chagrined. This country needs a cabinet with decisiveness.”

The debate became even more intense after a cabinet press conference from last week, where, contrary to prior remarks stating that the nitrogen issue would be put on hold for the time being, Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) said that measures would be accelerated.

“So what is it? Will the policy be paused, accelerated or remain the same? Give clarity!” Jesse Klaver, head of the Green party (GroenLinks), said.

Just a few hours before the debate, the Council of State, a constitutional advisory body, had ruled that the government may disregard nitrogen pollution that comes down more than 25 kilometres from its source when handing out construction or agricultural permits, much to the chagrin of environmental organisations.

The nitrogen crisis, which has been ongoing since 2019, has severely impeded the Dutch government’s ability to advance direly needed housing construction and has also angered farmers and agricultural associations, as many fear that the government’s plans to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030 (compared to 2019) endangers their livelihood.

The deadline of 2030 has caused a rift within the governing coalition, as the Christian-democratic Party (CDA) has recently stated that it would accept pushing the date back.

(Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com)