According to political reporter Leendert Beekman, the demand of the VVD supporters is simple. ‘In November last year, Rutte said he was committed to reducing the influx of asylum seekers. And according to several departments within the party, that has not happened enough.’ Not only the classical-liberal, but also the JOVD believe that more should be done. This is also evident from a recent poll by EenVandaag.
The question is whether Rutte and party chairman Hermans have sufficient power to get the plans through to other coalition parties in the House of Representatives. On the one hand, the file is untouched on the table and, on the other hand, the solutions are not there for the taking. After all, people have been talking about migration and asylum seekers since the 1990s. ‘The VVD has taken government responsibility quite often over the past 25 years. So if there had been any low-hanging fruit, it would have been picked. There are no easy solutions,’ says Beekman.
Because opinions are also divided within the coalition. D66 and ChristenUnie see nothing in asylum applications outside the EU. And there is also little enthusiasm for cutbacks, making it less attractive for asylum seekers to come to the Netherlands. ‘These people are fleeing war and violence and are simply entitled to asylum. That right cannot be taken away from these people.’
Cards against the chest
The theme of asylum and labor migration is clearly a sensitive issue within the coalition. “Rutte has been claiming for weeks that we have to be patient,” says Beekman. “He says he has a list of plans but holds the cards to his chest.” According to the prime minister, this is an international problem that must be discussed within the international community.
A concrete commitment from Rutte will therefore not be made at the party congress on Saturday. But according to Beekman, patience within the VVD has run out, both among the supporters and within the faction. ‘We have already heard party chairman Hermans say that she has kindly asked for measures to be taken for the last time. And Ruben Brekelmans, the spokesperson in this area, is also running out of patience.’
The question is whether the theme has become a breaking point within the party. ‘Prominent Members of Parliament are now saying out loud that something has to be done’, says Beekman. That makes asylum the biggest crisis for Rutte within his party. ‘What nitrogen is to the CDA is asylum to the VVD.’ A big problem without a ready-made solution.