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In the many objections to the form and content of the farmers’ protest and the lax attitude of the government, especially the police, a number of groups were conspicuously missing.
The veterans, for example, explicitly wanted to remain ‘neutral’ with regard to the peasant actions on 15 August – the National Commemoration of the end of the war in our Kingdom – just like the Roman Catholics who celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin on the same day.
This silence has to do with the perception of farmers as representing a traditional, national culture, also by the relatively large number of believers among them. That is why the contact with the offending farmers is invariably called ‘friendly’.
In this culture, right-wing populists and religious parties feel like a fish in water. We are talking about a substantial electorate, because that traditional culture is also appreciated by VVD voters and by Orange populists – the king is still silent about the inverted flags.
And that the police are tougher on general practitioners and environmental activists than on farmers is not a joke, but a logical observation about a rather conservative, macho profession. Also consider the great difficulty the police have in recruiting and subsequently retaining women, LGBTQ people and ethnic minorities. There is a structural lack of inclusiveness, also in the eyes of the police leadership itself, with overt racist excesses.
Of course, like veterans, orthodox Catholics and orange populists, Uncle Agent has more to do with a farmer than with an environmentalist. A ‘pussy’ after all.
The radical peasants therefore represent an anarchist attitude towards the government, not only the national, but also the provincial and municipal. A macho culture of ostentatiously disobeying the rules, whether it concerns setting off illegal fireworks for weeks, speeding with noisy means of transport – including in nature reserves – or illegally burning or dumping waste and misbehaving at sports competitions.
Of course, that culture is currently also aimed at the arrival of asylum seekers who are not white, Christian and European.
Harmful short-term thinking
The other reason is tactical. This culture is the main substantive reason for three government parties to change their mind about nitrogen policy: their electorate is close, if not in between. The parties are therefore not interested in a long-term perspective that applies European rules to improve the position of nature, the environment and the average farmer. But for a short-term electoral interest.
After all, VVD, CU, but especially CDA feel the hot breath of the BoerBurgerBeweging in the neck, less than seven months to go before the elections of the provincial councils.
Our prime minister already boycotted a meeting of Remkes with nature organizations – minister Jetten of D66 was present at that – and is negotiating behind Remkes’ back with the foreman of Agractie.
The fact that most traditional lobby groups in the agricultural sector, with the exception of the banks, did not want to be tactically present at Remkes, speaks volumes. The government absolutely does not want them as opponents.
Deputy Prime Minister Hoekstra – his party threatens the greatest blows – has therefore now formally distanced himself from the coalition agreement on nitrogen reduction: 2030 is much too early, according to him. Rutte downplayed this position, which offends the entire coalition, but in particular his party colleague Van der Wal, like a test balloon. Should be possible, but not too often
The House of Representatives does not agree with this qualification and will return early from recess to debate the issue. Next Tuesday.
Perfect timing for Rutte and Hoekstra, because the day before, Remkes received representatives from the provinces and municipalities.
They are happy to come, because on Monday the goat path will be built that should reassure the lobby of the agro-industry. Rutte, Hoekstra and Segers will enthusiastically inform the House on Tuesday that mistakes have been made in the past with maps that were too vague, but that provinces and municipalities have promised to regulate the farmers’ nitrogen problem ‘immediately in the coming months in a tailor-made and energetic way’. From the ideology of the short term, this means: unclear, not very transparent and difficult to control without nationally established criteria. Buy out companies that border on nature reserves and otherwise a lot of ‘technical innovation’. Subtext: ‘No cow out of the barn!’
Perhaps a parliamentary majority will fall for this story.