Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has warned that Europe will fall “over the edge” unless the European Union scales back its ambitions and mainstream politicians start listening to the demands of voters flocking to populist parties.
In an interview with The Financial Times, Rutte attempted to diagnose the populist surge that has dominated European politics in 2016, turfing leaders out of office.
“We cannot push the project over the edge by pushing for more Europe,” said Rutte, referring to those who wish to shift powers from member states to Brussels. “We are losing the population in the process.”
With elections in the Netherlands just three months away, Geert Wilders’ anti-EU and anti-immigration PVV tops some polls and are forecast to be the largest party in elections next March, just ahead of Rutte’s centre-right VVD, reported The Financial Times.
“We should stop complaining about voters who are thinking of voting for Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany, or for Party for Freedom here, or for Marine Le Pen in France,” said Rutte. “The voters are not wrong. When voters move in another direction, it means the mainstream parties have to be more successful in showing we can solve these problems.”
Rutte also said he supports the EU, but wants the bloc to do less: “If you love Europe, stop dreaming of more Europe and start fixing problems. There is a real risk.”
Asked about Brexit, Rutte said the Netherlands must maintain its delicate balance during the negotiations, granting the UK a fair deal but one that does not undermine the rest of the bloc. “I do not want a punishment deal,” said Rutte. “I want a deal that is not about cherry picking. I do not want to punish the UK for what they are doing. They have every right under Article 50. It was not in the treaty before: Hotel California has now gone. You can check in and check out.”