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Dutchman Mark Rutte Seeking Influence in an Orphaned Britain

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands denies any candidacy for the positions for which he is expected in the EU. While presenting a method and an embryo program.

By Jean-Pierre Stroobants Posted yesterday at 19h00, updated yesterday at 19h00

Time to Reading 4 min.

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Mark Rutte in The Hague on 16 January.
Mark Rutte in The Hague on 16 January. BART MAAT / AFP

Brussels is bursting with rumors that already make him the future president of the European Council, or even the Commission, and therefore the successor of the Polish Donald Tusk or the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker. Prime Minister for eight years, well in court in Paris and Berlin, at the head of a successful country: Mark Rutte, the Dutch liberal, has in many eyes the ideal profile to drive, after the elections in May, a Europe which will undoubtedly have been jostled by the populist forces. Those he has tamed in his country by beating dry Geert Wilders in 2017.

The fact that he does not hide his hostility to the system of "Spitzenkandidaten" – supposed to designate the future head of the Commission – as well as the lesson on Europe he was to give, Wednesday, February 13, in Zurich, could confirm the prognoses. He had given his intervention in the Swiss city a program-like title – "From the power of principles to the principles of power" – and it is not unusual for this skilful manager to engage in strategic considerations.

A Europe both "big and small"

Gathering, the day before, a few foreign journalists in The Hague – another unusual practice for him – the person concerned denied all the suppositions: "I have no ambition for a leading European job. We run the risk of being quoted when we begin, like myself, to be known, but I intend to lead my coalition to an end in 2021 and decide, six months before the elections, if I will take the list of my part [le Parti populaire libéral et démocrate, VVD] in view of these. "

Closed chapter? Perhaps, because nothing prevents that, considering the future events and the possible insistence of other leaders, the Dutch ends up revising his judgment. "I will probably be more effective as a member of the Council," he says, however. In any case, during his speech at the University of Zurich, on the very spot where Winston Churchill – one of his heroes – evoked in 1946 his vision of a united Europe, Mr Rutte went off the beaten path. He manifested his obvious willingness to be one of the voices of the union of tomorrow, deprived of the British and often described as out of leadership, especially in a few months Emmanuel Macron's stars and Angela Merkel singularly pale.


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