Dutch Prime Minister submits resignation after tenuous ruling coalition falls apart over migration crisis Moscow points finger at cause of crisis gripping western Europe
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands submitted his resignation to the Dutch king, Willem-Alexander, on Friday, after the four-party ruling coalition he headed failed to reach common ground on migration policy. A caretaker cabinet will hold office until a new general election.“Migration is a major political and social issue,” Rutte told reporters in The Hague on Friday evening. “Now that we have been unable to find agreement on this, we have collectively assessed that the political support under the coalition has disappeared.”
The four coalition members have “very different views on migration policy,” he added. “And today, unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable.”King Willem-Alexander has been notified of the government’s resignation. Rutte will stay on as the caretaker PM until a new general election, which will probably take place in November.
Migrants jostle for firewood in a makeshift camp near the Greek village of Idomeni, March 6, 2016. © LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP
The main bone of contention at Friday’s coalition meeting was the proposal to limit the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the country of 18 million, which is already facing a housing shortage. Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Christian Democrats wanted to limit the number of relatives who could follow asylum seekers already in the country at 200 per year, and create a separate category for war refugees and those fleeing political persecution. The other two partners, D66 and the Christian Union, opposed “breaking up families.”
The Netherlands received 46,000 asylum applications in 2022, with the government projecting it might see as many as 70,000 this year, more than the previous high recorded in 2015. The country has also taken in around 95,000 Ukrainians under “temporary protection” until March 2025. Rutte has been prime minister since October 2010, as part of four different ruling coalitions.
The most recent was put together in January 2022, after the longest negotiations in Dutch political history. The four-party bloc ended up with just 77 seats in the 150-member parliament.“Quick elections now,” Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, tweeted after Rutte’s announcement. The Green Left leader, Jesse Klaver, also called for a new parliament, telling the public broadcaster NOS that the country “needs a change of direction.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday that solving the problem of mass migration requires addressing the Western meddling into the affairs of other countries and destabilisation of their governments.
During her daily news briefing, Zakharova was asked to comment on unspecified media reports in “unfriendly countries”about Moscow allegedly weaponizing migration against the EU.“We believe that migration in this direction is the result of irresponsible and reckless interference by Western countries in the internal affairs of sovereign states, in order to destabilize them and forcefully change objectionable governments in the region,” Zakharova said, noting that most migrants come to the EU from the Middle East and North Africa.The countries responsible should deal with the consequences, one of which is a “massive flow of migrants and refugees,”she said.
Moscow’s position is that the best way to solve the migration problem is to “eliminate the root causes that force people to leave their homeland,” including political settlement of ongoing conflicts, economic aid, and strengthening governments in the fight against terrorism, according to the spokeswoman.
Mass migration into Europe began following the so-called Arab Spring of 2011, which saw “color revolutions” in several North African countries and Western-backed regime change operations in Libya and Syria. Once the most prosperous country in Africa, Libya has been torn by civil war ever since, while the neighboring region of Sahel has had to deal with Islamist militants.
Syria almost fell to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists until Russia and Iran intervened in 2015. The EU has sought to spread the burden of handling the migrants and asylum-seekers through a policy of “mandatory solidarity,” adopted at a ministerial meeting in early June, but Hungary has since signaled it intends to reject the proposal.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an estimated 94,000 migrants had arrived on EU shores as of July 3, compared to 189,000 in 2022. The vast majority of arrivals, some 85,000, have been by sea. The crossing has also been more hazardous this year, with more than 2,000 deaths recorded so far, compared to 2,400 in all of 2022.