As reported in the latest Politico article (below) the recent Dutch national election winner, by a large margin, the far-right Geert Wilders, has made clear that he intends that his government will be “no friend to Brussels” and that a referendum on leaving the EU will be very much on the cards.
And while the outspoken Wilders has softened his anti-Islam rhetoric in recent weeks, there are no signs that he intends to water down his Euroskepticism after this shock election victory.
While EU observers believe that a referendum on leaving the EU is unlikely in the immediate future Politico reports that a seat for Wilders around the EU summit table will transform the dynamic, alongside other far-right and nationalist leaders already in post.
Suddenly, policies ranging from climate action, to EU reform and weapons for Ukraine will be up for debate, and even reversal and, since the exit polls were announced, potential center-right partners have not ruled out forming a coalition with Wilders, who emerged as the clear winner, despite the fact that for the past 10 years, he’s been kept out by centrists.
In what he has labelled “winds of change”, Wilders’ stance on immigration is a major concern for EU politicians as it was a dominant issue in the Dutch election and in his victory speech he vowed to tackle what he described as the “asylum tsunami” that’s currently hitting the Netherlands.
As migrant numbers continue to rise, so too has support for far-right parties in many countries in Europe. In Italy last year, Giorgia Meloni won power for her ‘Brothers of Italy’ party. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally remains a potent force, in second place in the polls and in Germany, the ‘Alternative for Germany’ has also surged to second place in recent months.
Impact on the fishing industry
As reported last week by the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA) article ‘Icelandic access - the elephant in the room’ it is well known that the Netherlands’ fishing industry’s big players have heavy investment in pelagic interests throughout Europe (and beyond) and there are many Dutch-owned demersal vessels flagged in other EU member states - - but it remains to be seen how damaging a withdrawal of the Netherlands would be to these investments and more importantly to the power the Netherlands currently holds within the EU Fisheries Commission.
But meanwhile on the ground in Holland a study by the Wageningen Economic Research just four months ago reveals that there are many concerns and a deep mistrust of the direction of the national fishing industry is being forced into under EU rule in recent years - - so much so that only 4% of Dutch skipper/owners believe that they will still have a business in five years’ time.
The report states that fishing has historically taken place in the Netherlands by family businesses with shared knowledge and a specific social organisation.
“These companies often have locals on board and are anchored in fishing communities. They contribute to social cohesion, cultural heritage and the social well-being and identity of fishing communities. In addition, fishing contributes greatly to the social well-being of fishermen and their families.”
The Netherlands has 44 fishing communities with an active fleet, spread across 34 municipalities, from Terschelling to Breskens. In addition, there are another 84 communities in which fishing is an important part of their history.
As is in Ireland, the socio-cultural value of fishing is considerable - with the Wageningen study showing that "fishing is not only an economic activity that provides trade, employment, income and food but it also has added vital social value".
Much has changed for Dutch fisheries in recent years. For instance, fishing in fewer and fewer parts of the North Sea is allowed due to Brexit, the designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) to close fishing areas, and the construction of offshore wind farms.
But other policies, such as the EU ban on pulse fishing have also had profound effects on the Dutch fleet. These and other factors have led fishermen from large to small-scale fisheries to collectively worry about the future.
"A lot of anger, incomprehension and powerlessness resonates from this survey," says Marloes Kraan. "People in the fishing industry feel they are being relegated to the margins by politics and NGOs. The EU policy process makes people feel not heard or understood and this leads to distrust."
And that last paragraph could just have easily been written about the Irish fishing industry.
The Politico article can be seen at the following link: