The Netherlands – torn between the UK and the EU

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The Netherlands - torn between the UK and the EU

(Photo: Flickr)

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.

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  • Barba_Papa

    Nitpicks,
    – William V was not a king of the Netherlandsin the 18th century, he was only head of the province of Holland, the western most dominant province of the then Dutch republic. The kingdom of the Netherlands was only created by Napoleon with his family member Louis Napoleon as its first king. Then absorbed into France as he proved to be too indepdent and then revived after the fall of Napoleon with William I, heir to William V, as the new king. Because this William was the first king of the Orange line the numbering was restarted.

    – The UK did not go to war with Germany over the Netherlands in 1940, but over Poland in 1939. In the grand scheme of things the Dutch ports weren’t even a threat to the UK. It was from the Norwegian Fjords and French Atlantic ports that the Kriegsmarine would operate and against which the British launch their raids and attacks. And even when in 1944 the Allies entered the Netherlands they considered it an unimportant side theater. Which they relegated to the Canadians as the British drove into Germany instead.Even the disastrous battle of Arnhem only served as a stepping stone for the British army advance into Germany.

    – The Netherlands has been economically tied to Germany ever since the rise of the Ruhr industries. The port of Rotterdam is basically Germany’s biggest port. Our old currency was basically tied to the Deutschmark. Compared to Germany trade with the UK is secondary and if the Netherlands has to chose between the UK and Germany, it will chose Germany.

    – During the Iraq invasion the Dutch government did not side with the UK, but with the US. A crucial difference, as its the relation to Washington that was and still is key in the minds of Dutch politicians for its primary security of the Netherlands. It wants to hang to the broad shoulders of the US for its defense. If the UK had not joined in the attack against Iraq the Dutch government would still have sided with Washington. So, economically, Germany, international security, the US. Only in EU politics was London of importance to the Netherlands as an ally against the German/French Axis. But still if push came to shove we would chose for Germany and the EU. Because that is where our economy depends upon.

    – There is no chance in hell of Geert Wilders EVER becoming prime minister, as no other party is stupid enough to enter into a coalition government with him. He has pissed off ALL the other parties, he has burned too many bridges. The one time his party entered into a form of coalition government, which was the previous government, he proved himself untrustworthy.

    This article is made of fail, poor research and wishful thinking. Better to stick to military analysis over Syria.

    • Red Tick Alert

      I actually disagree with a number of your points.

      Paragraph 1 – he was the stadholder.

      Para 2 – you state “. In the grand scheme of things the Dutch ports weren’t even a threat to the UK.” ….. I think you missed the point totally on this; the ports were not a that but part of the supply line to the British Isles.
      I agree to why Britain entered the war i.e. Poland; but regards the Brits not bothering about the NL is false – France was the obvious place to cross into mainland Europe not The Netherlands because it was impossible for our fighters to participate in support / attack or defence of the ships.
      As for “And even when in 1944 the Allies entered the Netherlands they considered it an unimportant side theater.” = absolute nonsense.
      As for “Which they relegated to the Canadians as the British drove into Germany instead.Even the disastrous battle of Arnhem only served as a stepping stone for the British army advance into Germany.” …. I am sorry but again this is both nonsensical and downright illogical.

      Para 3 – You may be correct but you forget to take into account the income the Dutch government makes from the Anglo Dutch companies but yes Germany are their biggest exporter; but remember the Dutch are a trading nation.

      Para 4 – I disagree with this totally apart from “Only in EU politics was London of importance to the Netherlands as an ally against the German/French Axis”.

      Para 5 – Exactly what voice does a PM have in The NL – after 20 years living here, I believe it is almost zero. If the PVV get in, do they even want to be the government ?; either way it doesn’t matter. FOR ME – I am 100% behind the PVV and the funny thing is, is that I am a UK citizen expat.

      As for your parting sentence; to a certain extent I do agree with you, I come here for news on Syria + Iraq + Yemen, so I believe they should stick to that, but just because you have your views on matters which in some cases are wrong, it doesn’t mean you need to be so terse.

      My view only and my “nitpicking” and certainly no disrespect intended. Cheers for now.

      • Barba_Papa

        No disrespect taken.

        What I meant to convey was that when I read a journalistic piece in subjects that I do know very well, I’m a history buff, I start to wonder what else might be wrong in articles on subjects I know less or nothing about? Personally this is the biggest reason why I’ve started to distrust the MSM. I’ve noticed too many instances of lazy journalism. And to read it here as well has me worried.

        • dutchnational

          In fact, I might add a little here and there.

          Stadhouder Willem III had a hereditary function and had the right to call himself king when abroad.

          The royal family has ever been closest to different german states. The family itself being of german origin and largely, or mainly, marrying into german nobility.

          The Netherlands wants close, very close, ties with Germany but often felt a relationship with British. In case of Brexit, we have seen the chaos reigning in Britain about this subject and support for EU has, outside of the PVV, risen sharply.

          The PVV might become the largest party in parliament, possibly but the likelyhood is getting smaller. They will have at the most, as of now, 25 to 30 seats, not 30% and except for 50+, a pensioners party, all other parties stated they will not govern with the PVV.

          The PM is in itself not a powerfull head of government. He runs a small ministry, General Affairs, and has to , generally, stay out of the departments of other inisters. He, or she, is a coordinator, a facilitator. An integrator if you like.

          Privately, I think participation of the PVV within a government is in itself not a problem but I doubt if they have capable people available with enough tature to manage and control their departments. Furthermore, it is doubtfull they can provide integrated positive policies towards the future.

          But lets wait for march. We might wake up surprised.

          • Red Tick Alert

            Ignoring the 1st sentence for ease.

            “Stadhouder Willem III had a hereditary function and had the right to call himself king when abroad”……… SPOT ON

            “The royal family has ever been closest to different german states. The family itself being of german origin and largely, or mainly, marrying into german nobility.” …….. and the British Royal Familly => mmm, a common theme occurs.

            3rd para – I am not sure what you mean.

            4th Para – The PVV needs serious representation in parliament, 25-30 seats is enough for now if the libtards refuse to work with them. I live in the NL as I assume you do as well, and tensions are rising; I met Clients (work) in Amsterdam and ended up with a broken front tooth and broken nose because some Moroccan piece of scum sucker punched me as I was waiting for a hot dog near the train station (Amsterdam central) -> the vermin need deporting or executing.

            Just that foothold and then watch – PVV may not take power this time due to the libtard nature of the Dutch people BUT THEY WILL.

            5th Para – Totally agree.

            6th Para – mm, I hate to say it BUT maybe you are correct (but I hpe you ae not). As a side issue – what does tature mean – I assumed stature.

            My comment

            The Netherlands would not need parties like the PVV, if we/they had a decent government that didn’t act like a bunch of t0ssers and followed the Dumb-fooks in Germany + actually rectified or corrected their electoral system WHICH TO ME IS MADNESS.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_the_Netherlands

            It was a beacon of hope regards proportional representation, but has turned into a total farce / calamity / joke………. As Belgium DID.

          • dutchnational

            I think in the end our opinions are not that far apart.

            I personally have no problems with any party, including the PVV, as long as they remain democratic. I have a problem with many dutch politicians as I feel they have no proper vision for a future of our country nor of how to get there and I include Geert Wilders in that.

            I am pro EU but I concur the EU sometimes overreach .

            I am totally opposed to UK system of representation, which, in my opinion, is madness. However, if the brits are happy having it, more power to them as long as they do not share it with my country.

          • Red Tick Alert

            Nice comment – thanks.

            For me; the most pertinent comment is when you state “I am totally opposed to UK system of representation, which, in my opinion, is madness.”…

            1. To a certain extent I agree it is madness, but do we go the same way as The NL or Belgium ???. – No chance, do you want talk abut madness or shall I shut up about animal parties and paedophiles !!??.

            2. I believe that the Dutch system is crazy and just as useless as any other current system (my view only). I support UKIP – 4 millions votes = 1 MP (“go figure” as the Americans say)

            3. There must be something in between the both that represents democracy + gives the people the choice.

            Complicated World hey ?.

          • dutchnational

            Sometimes we just have to uncomplicate it a little. To avoid the splintering of the electorate, indeed a problem, we could start with something the Germans have. Below 5%, no representation. Something to consider maybe, let us say 4%?

        • Red Tick Alert

          I am with you there 100%. Sometimes I wish the internet (a relatively modern invention to the masses) had never been designed.

          I wish I was still a kid again watching the BBC news and believing every word.

          It is all smoke and mirrors and I wish I had never found that out. But now I have; game on.

          • dutchnational

            When I was a kid, we never watched the BBC.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      Bravo!

  • wimroffel

    The author seems to forget that the Netherlands was one of the original six that started what would become the EU.

    Although I am skeptical regarding the euro I don’t believe the Netherlands will ever leave it. Long before the euro already the Dutch central bank aimed for a constant exchange rate with the German mark. So even when the euro might break down I expect that the monetary connection with Germany will be maintained.

    As I see it bi-national companies like Shell, Reed Elsevier and Unilever have that configuration because of the different focus. The Dutch headquarters take care of the European continent while the British headquarters focus on other continents (a legacy from the times of the British empire).

    • dutchnational

      Totally agree. My private opinion regarding the bi national companies is that brits provided the grand vision and the dutch the common sense and the accountants (pennypinchers).

  • Rodger

    The Netherlands may like the UK but it needs Germany. And we know it.

    • dutchnational

      You know, some of us actually like Germans. I do.

      • Rodger

        Me too.

  • Nico Varkevisser

    A very interesting debate. Historically, going back to the Middle Ages, the Dutch always tried to balanced between the continental and Britisch, later American influences. In 1296 they even killed a count for switching sides. In that period there were mainly trafe contacts with Scotland and the Scandinavian countries, even to Russia.

    Keeping the balance of both elements were present throughout history. A clear evidence was shown with Philips/Eindhoven in 1940. After pressing for the removal, just before the war started, of the commander in chief who wanted a defense line around Eindhoven, Philips assured its position by sending half the board with the royal family to England, and half of the board worked closely with the nazis, using concentration camp prisoners as cheap labour force. And than there is the dark and murky story of the treason of Arnhem in 1944, in which it was clear there was high treason from within the allied forces, which led to the failed attack. It is widely believed that Prince Bernhard, husband of the later to become Queen Juliana and former member of the Reiter SS and working for IG Farben, played an important role in that.

    As far as the position of the “The Family” as the royals are named, has always been problematic and the Dutch bourgeoisie never wanted them as sovereign rulers. When in 1581, during the independance war against Spain (1568-1648), the bourgeoisie finally broke with the king of Spain, the never considered the replace him with the family of Orange/Nassau. First they offered i to the count of Leicester from England, when that failed to the count of Anjou from France and when that failed they proclaimed “The Republic of the 7 United Netherlands. At best the Orange/Nassau family remained as ‘Stadhouder’ a paid functionary of the Republic, mainly a military function. It is because of this, the Orange/Nassau family were in favor of continuing the war. They fought very hard against the bourgeoisie (regenten), leading to the imprisonment of o.a. Hugo de Groot and the execution of Johan van Oldenbarneveld in 1609 during the 12 year cease fire. When it finally came to a peace treaty in 1648, as part of a European peace treaty, they feared so much the los of relevanve that they even tried a coup détat in 1649. it failed, but they had their revenge in 1672 with the killing of the 2 ‘De Witt brothers’.

    In 1795 they run as ‘Stadhoudhouder’ to England, but were not made king when they came back in 1815. The Congress of Vienna appointed them only as ‘sovereign’ over the lowlands (Belgium and the Netherlands). Stadhouder William V made himself King William I, so their position as king is illegal. “The Family” has a very dark hidden history, but as writer correctly pointed out, still with a considerable amount of influence behind the scene. They have an outspoken preference for questionable marriages, to say the least. Apart from nazi-officer Bernhard, there a member of the Zorreqieta family (the present queen) who were part of the fascist junta in Argentine and Mabel Wisse Smit, who married the brother of the present king, who became a Soros operative after an affair with one of the most notorias criminals in the Netherlands. As Soros operative she played a crucial and devastating role during the War in Bosnia and later Kosovo as lover of Mohamed Sacerbey, the Bosnian Moslim ambassador to the UN and a wanted criminal for embazzeling lots of money.

    Concerning the issue weather the Netherlands will stay within the Euro-zone, this will not be decided by elections, but will be the choice of the elites, as was Brexit and the rise of Trump. My guess is, based on what I have read and heard from various commentators, the decision has already been made in Berlin. Germany will leave the Euro, followed by the Netherlands, Austria and some Scandinavian countries. That is the reason that all these countries are trying very hard to get their gold back that is stored abroad. There is an old saying in the Netherlands, that everything hppens here 50 years later than in other countries. So don’t expect big changes now, especially not from Wilders, an opportunistic demagogue with close ties to the neo-cons in Washington. But eventually it will come later and hopefully we don’t have to wait 50 years.