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Dutch foreign minister named new EU climate czar candidate

August 25, 2023

Hoekstra would replace Frans Timmermans, who quit the position to lead a bloc ahead of November's election. Despite previously stirring controversy with EU partners, Dutch premier Rutte said he was the man for the job.

Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra arrives for the Budget Council meeting at the Ministry of General Affairs in the Binnenhof.
The Dutch foreign minister has been nominated to take the role of the EU's climate commissionerImage: Robin Utrecht/ANP/picture alliance

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has named Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra as the candidate for the post of the European Commission climate chief on Friday.

Hoekstra would replace Frans Timmermans as the climate czar and vice president of the European Union's executive arm. Timmermans resigned from the post on Tuesday, as he prepares to lead a center-left bloc into November's general election.

Addressing his weekly press conference, Rutte said Hoekstra was the "right man" for the job.

"I think that we have a good candidate in Hoekstra," he said. "What you need is somebody with international experience, who can negotiate and bring people together."

Hoekstra's past EU controversies

The other EU nations' reception of Hoekstra's candidacy remains to be seen.

He is due to meet EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday for what he described to local media as a "careful discussion," as he tries to convince the EU parliament of his candidacy.

In the midst of the pandemic, Hoekstra angered the EU's southern partners in 2020 when he criticized their budgeting capabilities, commenting on their ability to fund a medical response to the COVID-19 outburst.

At the time, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa described his comments as "repugnant."

Prime Minister Rutte later told a Dutch television show that he agreed with Hoekstra later that "we could have communicated in a more subtle way."

The outgoing foreign minister's experience in the climate portfolio is less than that of his predecessor. However, Rutte stressed Hoekstra would be a strong player in international talks.

rmt/jcg (AFP, AP)