Home Diplomatic Pouch The new Dutch Cabinet: profiles of Ministers and State Secretaries. Part I.

The new Dutch Cabinet: profiles of Ministers and State Secretaries. Part I.


By Anton Lutter.

After the longest period of negotiating in Dutch political history – 208 days – a cabinet has been formed by the VVD, CDA, D’66 and CU political parties under the slogan “Trust in the future”, with Mark Rutte as third time Prime Minister, thus starts cabinet Rutte III. In part I and II, we will introduce the 24 Ministers and State Secretaries who were initiated by H.M. King Willem-Alexander at palace Noordeinde the 26th of October.

Mr. Mark Rutte Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs, is the party leader of the largest coalition party in government the VVD. Rutte born in The Hague 1967 is Prime Minister of the Netherlands since 2010 and the first liberal Prime Minister for 92 years. Since 2006 he’s also the leader of the Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy. He earned his master’s degree in history from Leiden University, after which he worked for Unilever and Calvé. He entered public office as state secretary for Social Affairs and Employment in 2002 until 2004 and Higher Education and Science from 2004 until 2006 after which he entered parliament until being initiated as Prime Minister in 2010. As a politician, he still manages teaching class for two hours a week at Johan de Witt high school in The Hague.

Deputy-Prime Ministers

The leaders of the other coalition parties – unusually in Dutch political tradition – did not enter the cabinet but prefer to stay in the Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal (parliament). CDA, D’66 and CU put forward as their Deputy-Prime Ministers Mr. Hugo de Jonge, Mrs. Kajsa Ollongren and Mrs. Carola Schouten.

Mr. Hugo de Jonge, born in 1977 is Deputy-Prime Minister for the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. Before entering the cabinet, he was Deputy-Mayor of Rotterdam since 2010, for Education, Youth and Family and later of Welfare. Mr. de Jonge is a teacher by education later serving in various positions within the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. He’s married with two children. The second Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations is Mrs. Kajsa Ollongren, representing Democrats 66 (D’66) party. Mrs. Ollongren, who’s also of Swedish nationality, studied history at University of Amsterdam earning a master’s degree and subsequently studied public administration at École nationale d’administration in Paris. Her career has been in the civil service starting at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, lastly becoming the Secretary-General of the Ministry of General Affairs under Prime Minister Rutte in 2011.

In 2014 she entered politics by becoming the Deputy-Mayor of Amsterdam, her portfolio including such topics as economics, sea-and airports, local media and monuments. For a shortwhile she was acting Mayor of Amsterdam, after the sudden death of Mayor Eberhard van der Laan on the 5th october 2017. Ollongren is married with two children and is the first minister since 1981 who belongs to the Dutch nobility.

The third and last Deputy-Prime Minister also Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food quality Ms. Carola Schouten, who enters the cabinet as one of the 10 female Ministers and State Secretaries, is also the youngest minister in Rutte III. She represents the Christian Union (CU) who for the second time enter a government coalition. Before entering the cabinet she was a member of parliament 2011-2017 and earlier a civil servant at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. Mrs. Schouten studied business at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Cabinet Ministers and Ministers without Portfolio

A surprise appoint is Halbe Zijlstra who will lead Dutch foreign policy as Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Halbe Zijlstra (VVD), born in 1969 studied sociology at the University of Groningen earning a master’s degree in 1996. Working for Royal Dutch Shell he visited countries like Greece, Italy, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. From 1998 to 2001 he was a member of city council of Utrecht and again from 2003 to 2006 when he was elected to parliament. In october 2010 until 2012 he was chosen to be the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science in the Rutte Cabinet I. In that he was known for initiating budget cuts in the cultural sector, which bolstered his image as person who’s not afraid to take unpopular measures.

As Mr. Mark Rutte became Prime Minister for the second time, Zijlstra became the chair of the VVD parliamentary group until his appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He’s married, having one son. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also houses the office of the Minister without Portfolio for Development Cooperation. For this position D’66 member Mrs. Sigrid Kaag has been chosen. A career diplomat Mrs. Kaag, born 1961, held the post of United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) since january 2015. She has been working in a variety of positions both for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Dutch Shell and the United Nations. She has earned a master’s of philosophy degree in international relations from the University of Exeter and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Oxford. Mrs. Kaag is married with Mr. Anis al Aq former Palestinian representative to Switzerland, having 4 children.

Known to be rising star in the CDA, 42 year old Wopke Hoekstra is the Minister of Finance. He studied law at Leiden University and was praeses (president) of the Minerva student society. In 2005 he earned an MBA from ENSEAD at Fontainbleau. His start in public politics is as member of the Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal (senate) since 2011 until his recent appointment. He worked for Royal Dutch Shell and lastly as partner at McKinsey. His State Secretary of Fiscal Affairs, Lower Governmental Finances is Menno Snel (CU). Amongst others Mr. Snel was acting-director-general of Fiscal Affairs at said ministry, executive director of IMF and lastly chairman of the executive board of the Nederlandse Waterschapsbank. He studied economy at Groningen University.

At the Ministry of Justice and Security Mr. Ferdinand Grapperhaus (CDA) is at the helm. The son of a former state secretary of Finance, he was a law professor at Maastricht University and chairman of Allen & Overy Law firm. Born 1959 in Amsterdam Mr. Grapperhaus earned a master of law and doctor of philosophy at University of Amsterdam.

Minister of Legal Protection (minister without portfolio) is 42 years old Mr. Sander Dekker (VVD). In Rutte II cabinet he was State Secretary at the Ministry of Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, dealing with higher education, science and knowledge, teachers and culture. From 2006 until 2012 he served as Deputy-Mayor in The Hague where he started his political career as city councillor and was known as a strong debater. He studied public administration at Leiden University.

State Secretary of Immigration, Integration and Asylum Affairs at the Justice and Security Ministry is Mr. Mark Harbers (VVD). Born in 1969 he was a member of parliament since 2009 until this appointment. 2007-2009 he served as deputy-mayor in Rotterdam, at which city he also studied economy.





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