Dutch Foreign Min. Hoekstra expected to replace Timmermans as EU Commissioner

Outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra is set to be nominated on Friday by the Cabinet to replace Frans Timmermans as EU Commissioner, the Financial Times reported on Thursday. Following the fall of the government in July, the former CDA leader said he would not run again for his party. Timmermans stepped down as EU Commissioner to lead the PvdA-GroenLinks combination in the upcoming election.

Sources told the British business newspaper that the Cabinet will meet on Friday and are set to agree to nominate Wopke Hoekstra as EU commissioner for the Netherlands. The former leader of the CDA, the Dutch center-right Christian Democrat party is expected to take the climate portfolio. His term will last until a new commission forms following the European Parliament election that will be held in June 2024.

The British newspaper stated that many expected the outgoing Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag to secure the job, as her party D66 had the right to nominate a commissioner under the coalition agreement. However, this was not honoured due to the fall of the government in July, which means the Cabinet is currently in caretaker mode.

Hoekstra has served as Minister of Foreign Affairs since January 2022. Before that, he served as Minister of Finance in Mark Rutte’s third cabinet from 2017 to 2022. As Minister of Finance, he pushed for strict fiscal discipline within the Eurozone, leading to tensions with southern member states like Italy and Greece. From 2002 to 2017, he held various positions in the Netherlands and abroad, including at Shell and McKinsey & Company.

Timmermans threw his hat in the ring to lead the joint PvdA/GroenLinks party in mid-July, two weeks after the fourth Cabinet of Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigned. As a result of the collapse of the Cabinet, new elections will be held in November to determine the composition of the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. A coalition of parties represented by MPs there will then begin negotiating to form the next Cabinet.

The members of both PvdA and GroenLinks were given a chance to vote last week on whether Timmermans should lead the party for the November 22 elections. Some 37,000 people voted, with 92 percent giving their support to Timmermans, a PvdA politician.

He has been on the European Commission since 2014, and has led the Commission’s European Green Deal program, a collection of policies to make the European Union climate neutral by 2050. Slovak politician Maroš Šefčovič will take over Timmermans’ portfolio on the Green Deal. He currently serves as a Vice-President of the European Commission.

Prior to becoming a European Commissioner, Timmermans served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Rutte’s second Cabinet. His speech to the United Nations days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 drew international attention for calling out Russian authorities and pro-Russian rebels for their role in the disaster, the disarray that followed, and the political gamesmanship that hampered the investigation.

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