European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has backed the Dutch Government’s nomination of foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra as the new European Commissioner for climate action. He will replace “Green Pope” Frans Timmermans, but will have less power.
Von der Leyen gave Slovakian European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič the role of first vice-president earlier in August until a Dutch replacement was found. Hoekstra and Šefčovič will now share competence for the wide-ranging climate brief.
The government nominated Hoekstra during a cabinet meeting on August 25. On August 29, von der Layen gave her support.
“Mr Hoekstra showed strong motivation for the post and great commitment to the European Union,” she said in a statement. “He also has relevant professional experience for this post.”
Hoekstra will lead the climate agenda until the end of the EC’s legislature in 2024.
He is a member of the centrist Christian Democrats (CDA) party and of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), a party that has campaigned against the European Union’s environmental agenda.
Socialists are unhappy with the choice and on August 25, the European S&D Group reacted strongly in a press release. First, they saluted Timmermans, who “took on an inspiring, Herculean and pivotal role to translate Europe’s climate ambitions into policies protecting people and the planet. We hope Europe’s loss will be the Netherlands’ gain”.
S&D then rounded on Hoekstra: “Against the backdrop of the Conservative EPP’s recent cynical and populist manoeuvres to water-down the Green Deal and derail key legislative files … it is crucial for our Group that the climate portfolio remains in the hands of the Socialists and Democrats family.”
Social Democrats also criticised his stance during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he spoke out against financial support for countries that didn’t have a balanced budget during the health crisis.
S&D said it would not simply roll over regarding Hoekstra’s nomination, saying, “A Commissioner nominee does not make a Commissioner – let alone get the support of the S&D Group by default.”
Against the backdrop of the EPP’s recent cynical manoeuvres to water-down the Green Deal, it is pivotal for our Group that the climate portfolio remains in the hands of the S&D family.
— S&D Group (@TheProgressives) August 25, 2023
Von der Leyen seemed to get the message: Hoekstra will only now take over a portion of Timmermans’ portfolio. The so-called Green Deal project is to be headed by Šefčovič.
Furthermore, Hoekstra will not take over the position of first vice-president of the European Commission from Timmermans.
In July, Hoekstra announced he would not lead his Christian Democrats’ party list in the forthcoming Dutch elections, as he sees himself more as an administrative figure than a political operator.
The 47-year-old also said he saw no future in being in the Dutch Parliament.