News on Politico. Sophie in ‘t Veld – a Dutch Member of the European Parliament (MEP) – quits her party D66 to join the pan-European movement Volt. This party is already represented in Brussels bij one MEP: Damian Boeselager. Volt also has a representation in the Dutch and Bulgarian parliaments and in several city councils in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. What can be expected of the transfer of In ’t Veld? For the non-Dutch, this is probably difficult to judge. An analysis.
About in ’t Veld
In ‘t Veld is in office for almost twenty years. The last ten years, she became known as someone who is difficult to work with. In 2004 she was elected as the only MEP for D66. Later she was joined by more D66 MEPs, but In ’t Veld remained a loner. She never became friends with MEPs like Marietje Schaake (2009-2019), Matthijs van Miltenburg (2014-2019) and Samira Rafaela (since 2019). More than five years ago she published a book in Dutch: A European ID. She wrote in my copy that I am ‘nice and difficult’. Well Sophie, you are too.
It is precisely this characteristic that is under pressure in Dutch politics. Politicians are increasingly seen as people that must be nice, not outspoken, stubborn or assertive. This tendency results in a strange split: In ‘t Veld is known to be difficult to work with, but at the same time she has been the favorite candidate of the members of D66 for years. She won all internal elections.
This week, In ‘t Veld suddenly withdrew her party membership. It was a surprise for everyone. The reason came out after a few hours: the board of D66 does not want her to run for office again. Recently, D66 introduced new rules that limit the number of terms in office. Some even suggest that these new rules were made to end In ‘t Veld’s rule in Brussels. D66 thinks it’s time for someone new.
Transfer to Volt
According to In ‘t Veld, the views of Volt on the EU are much better than those of D66. It is not so strong that In ‘t Veld only realized this after she was no longer allowed to run for D66. It is even worse: In ‘t Veld knows that her own statements on Volt are not true at all: Volt has made the EU part of its branding, but strong, detailed views about specific European dossiers – the views needed in the European Parliament – are largely missing.
In ‘t Veld criticizes that D66 does not see Europe as one of the most important issues anymore. An illustration is that the MEPs were not allowed on the center stage of the party congress for years. I have a surprise for In ‘t Veld: Volt’s only MEP did not take the stage at the Volt conference in Bucharest either. Volt has also failed to give Damian Boeselager any international profile. Whether German voters are willing to elect him for a second term, is unclear.
Some commentators are speculating that In ’t Veld wants to become a candidate for Volt Nederland. For such a candidacy, In ‘t Veld should have been a member for more than three months. She is not. Of course, it is an option for Volt Nederland to make an exception for her, but there seems to be another problem: In ‘t Veld is so well-informed about the EU that she will hardly find Volters that she can have an informed discussion with. Would Volt allow such a powerhouse in its own ranks?
Volt has internal interests too. At the party congress in Bucharest, the European board members Reinier van Lanschot and Anouk Ooms announced their resignation in order to stand as candidates for the European Parliament on behalf of Volt Nederland. Van Lanschot has pre-sorted for his candidacy for years by flying all over Europe. As the co-chair or Volt Europa he served as the face of the European Volt branch. Should he make way for In ‘t Veld?
In her farewell letter, In ‘t Veld criticizes how her former party handles internal issues. She should take a closer look at her new party before judging her former party colleagues so harshly. Volt Nederland remains a club of friends – all men – who have known each other for years. Do they tolerate strong, independent women next to them? I guess they do not: when the Dutch MP Nilüfer Gündogan – who was not part of this group of friends – became too popular, a conflict came up soon.
No, I do not believe that In ’t Veld and Volt will turn out to be a match made in heaven.
Where’s the Portuguese guy?
Volt MEP Damian Boeselager says on Twitter that he is very pleased with In ‘t Veld’s transfer to Volt, and Reinier van Lanschot says the same. But for the time being, In ‘t Veld serves as an independent MEP, not as one of Volt.
Suddenly, I saw a striking resemblance with the Volt congress in Lisbon of October 2021. Volt had a surprise for all its members. A total stranger came onto the stage. It turned out to be Francisco Guerreiro. He threw a ball, told the audience about his rabbit and announced that his wife is a Volt member. He turned out to be an MEP for Portugal. He had split from his previous party and said he had joined Volt. Although he remained an independent MEP, Volt now actually had two MEPs instead of one.
The audience started clapping and cheering, but we never heard anything about Guerreiro again. It could just be that the same thing happens to In ‘t Veld.
A few days after writing this piece, a former board member of Volt Europe told me that Francisco Guerreiro is not a member of Volt anymore because of a substantive difference of opinion. So his switch to Volt has not been a success after all anyway.
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