Europe and the EU

Policy briefs

How Dutch farmers’ protests evolved into political mobilisation

06 May 2024 - 12:54
Source: Caroline van der Plas meets King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands / Reuters
A Prologue for Europe?

The early signs of the now omnipresent polarisation between farmers’ interests and environmental goals began to appear in the Netherlands in 2019. That year saw both the launch of the European Green Deal as the EU’s overarching growth strategy and the establishment of a political party representing farmers’ interests in the Netherlands, the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB). Five years later, the Green Deal has lost its appeal and the BBB is likely to enter government, although electorally the party seems past its peak. Farmers are now protesting across Europe and many oppose, in particular, EU environmental policies they consider overly bureaucratic and damaging to their business. The European Christian democrats (EPP) have clearly repositioned themselves as representatives of agricultural interests. They are keen to keep the rural vote, which is also sensitive to other more conservative and right-wing issues. In the Netherlands, this became clear in the most recent general elections where populist parties managed to attract a large part of the (rural) vote and where Geert Wilders’ anti-migration Freedom Party (PVV) became the biggest with about 25%. In this policy brief, we will zoom in on the events that shaped the rise of the BBB and led to the current political situation in the Netherlands. On that basis, this policy brief looks at how the Dutch case could be a prologue for the forthcoming European Parliament elections.

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