Written by Nikolay Nikolaev; Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
The upcoming March 15 elections will determine how close is Holland to leaving the European Union
The Venetian merchants who arrived at the end of the XVI century in the Netherlands, quickly comprehended a geographical truth – the low land may be an ideal starting point for the Amsterdam based Wisselbank as well as colonial expansion, but the location makes it vulnerable to invasion from the mainland. The catastrophic Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648) confirms this for the Venetians who have a crucial role in the creation of the Dutch Republic. Very soon the capital behind the first multinational corporation – the Dutch East India Company, as well as the gold and silver, and other commercial companies originating from the Iberian Peninsula, are moved west. Big money finds safe refuge among the misty British Isles and Holland becoming a secondary base for commercial operations. Ever since those days, the Netherlands invariably encounters the interests of maritime trade and attempts at control by the mainland. Such will be the fate of wetlands in the north-western part of Eurasia in the coming centuries – to be forever divided between its geographical affiliation to Europe, and to the vast marine expanses demanded by capital. No matter whether Napoleon or Hitler, establishing the dominance of the continent over the Netherlands has always met fierce opposition from the dominant maritime power. The bloody pages of European history are filled with instructive examples.
Located in the geopolitical Rimland, the Dutch state in recent centuries is important for the commercial and political interests of Britain. Moreover – the capture of Dutch ports and coastline from a foreign power is regarded by the United Kingdom as an existential threat from a military-political nature. That consideration is basically a centenarian British policy of splendid isolation and the balance of forces in Europe. Any violation of the delicate balance in the Netherlands, invariably leads to war. As the ancient Greek military leader and historian Thucydides says: “History repeats itself.”
In 1795, Napoleon invaded the Netherlands, and the war between France and England is the logical result. The Dutch King William V escapes to London. The continental hegemony of France leads to allied relations between Britain and Russia and is the basis for the defeat of the united “Napoleonic” Europe. More than 100 years later, history repeats. In May 1940, Hitler invaded the Netherlands and warfare between Britain and Germany was the logical outcome. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands escaped to London and the anti-Hitler coalition between the Russians, British and Americans destroyed Nazi Germany. Nearly eighty years after the final integration of the Netherlands in a united Europe, events remind us of the well-known geopolitical story. Tectonic changes like the crisis in Ukraine, Brexit and the choice of Donald Trump, ended a globalized multicultural timelessness, and returned history and geography to the stage. London understands and honors these two sciences.
Today Holland is part of a united under the financial and economic domination of the Berlin, liberal Europe, which Britain does not like. The powerful German economy, is expanding its influence in the Netherlands and its financial control of the European Central Bank and the euro. In the new geo-economic realities of the conservative world of Donald Trump and Theresa Mae, economic protectionism and national capitalism were erected on a pedestal. In this world there is no place for a Europe dominated by Germany expanding its commercial interests in Eurasia. Just as nearly 80 years ago, history repeats itself and the UK and Germany are facing off in the geopolitical Rimland of the Netherlands and France. Unlike the catastrophic for Europe period of World War II, today’s conflicts use sophisticated methods such as soft power, trade and currency wars, and diplomatic pressure. The field of battle are the March and April elections in the Netherlands and France, the outcome of which will decide the fate of the European Union. In a triumph of pro British forces in Holland and Marine Le Pen in France, the single currency and common economic space in Europe will remain in the past.
The facts show that, like the choice of Donald Trump for president of the United States and dramas like Brexit, the likelihood of abrupt change in the Dutch policy should not be underestimated. Behind the allied relations with Britain, are major forces in Dutch society. Among them is the always influential Dutch royal family such as Orange and powerful Anglo-Dutch capital. Enough is the fact that the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688, ascended to the English throne William of Orange (William III). British and Dutch royal family have always had close dynastic and political ties, and William V of Orange during the invasion of Napoleon, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands after the occupation by Hitler, fled precisely to London. Traditionally strong trade relations between the two countries are represented by powerful transnational corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell, the giant Unilever, metallurgical megacorporation Tata Steel Europe, pharmaceutical Reckitt Benckiser Group, Reed Elsevier, banking and financial corporation ING Group, technologically by Philips and so on. Shell is a synthesis of the Anglo-Dutch cooperation. The grandfather of today’s Dutch king – Prince Bernhard was a partner of Victor Rothschild in Shell. According to publicly available data, the dynasty of Orange controls about 25% of capital in the transnational corporation.
Virtually no other country in Europe has that close economic and financial ties with the United Kingdom. The country of tulips is among the leading trading partners in the UK and is in the top ranking of the largest investors in the British economy. During the Iraq war the Netherlands expressed solidarity with the position of the UK and, unlike Germany and France joined the military misadventure. Evidence shows that London will do everything possible to expand its influence in the Netherlands in the upcoming elections. In the softest option, Theresa May will try to use Amsterdam as a trump card in the upcoming talks on the Brexit from the European Union. For the leaders of the Conservative Party it is important for the UK to take advantage of the benefits of the single economic space and control of trade in euros in London clearing houses. In a scenario of “hard Brexit” London will seek an ally in the Netherlands in an attempt to destabilize the EU and the Eurozone. In both cases, elections in Amsterdam are of paramount importance.
In the Netherlands, the political map has been divided between pro-European and Eurosceptic parties. Among those with suspicious of European integration, are the Socialist Party, the conservative Protestant Reformed Political Party, the Christian Union and of course the Freedom Party. Polls for the upcoming vote on March 15, favor the populist Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders. Recent data suggests that it may win over 31 percent of the vote. The statistics are drawn from one of the most popular Dutch sociologist Maurice de Hond, who said it is very likely Geert Wilders will become the new Dutch prime minister. If he wins the election in the Netherlands, Wilders promises to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union to stop immigration and to leave the united currency zone. The eccentric politician is anti-German, an ardent supporter of Israeli policy in the Middle East and calls for non-Muslims in the country.
A victory of Wilders does not automatically mean the Netherlands are out of the European Union. Most facts speak in support of the thesis that Holland will attempt to balance the benefits of the Common Economic Space with independence from Germany and the euro currency. Nearly 25% of Dutch exports go to the German market. Although the party of Geert Wilders is most likely to win parliamentary elections, it will not be enough to form a government and other political parties, except the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, are reluctant to support Wilders, according to Remus Kortveg from the Centre for European reform. “Even if there is a referendum on EU membership for the Netherlands, Wilders will probably lose it” says Kortveg. Unlike the United Kingdom, the Netherlands referendums are not binding, and even if a referendum is held, its outcome is not necessarily in favor of leaving the EU. According to the UBS analysis, the most likely outcome of the elections on 15 March is a colorful coalition of five or more parties. The next likely scenario is a coalition led by the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The situation is further complicated by dilemmas about Brexit. For the Dutch, the better the UK protects its interests on leaving the EU, the more attractive leaving becomes. A favorable for London development, will deepen the mistrust in the EU and will encourage other countries to push for their interests. Topping this list is the Netherlands. On the other hand, a lack of concessions from the EU to the UK on immigration, free movement of goods and monetary policy, will exacerbate to the tensions and can lead to an intense conflict between Britons and Germans in the Netherlands and other European countries with traditionally strong English influence. An exit from the situation could be a compromise that satisfies all demands of London, and ensures freedom for the Netherlands from the control of the European Central Bank. Whether that will happen, or if tensions will be exacerbated to the limit, we will observe at the elections on 15 March. One thing is certain – the Netherlands is again a battleground between Britain and a United Europe.