The decision seems clear for the submarine business, now that the PVV has also withdrawn most of its objections

Secretary of State Christophe van der Maat (VVD) wants to sign “at full speed” the submarine contract with the French naval group, winner of a competitive battle that lasted years with a German and Swedish competitor. The House of Representatives probably won’t agree at the last minute, as became clear in a debate on Monday.

In any case, there is an air of inevitability hanging over the issue due to the pressure of time. Or, as Joeri Pool (PVV) says: “A sword of Damocles.”

Five years after the Government refused to follow a defense proposal to join forces with the Swedish Saab and the Dutch Damen, there is little left to choose from. Van der Maat says cancellation or postponement has “enormous legal and financial consequences.” And this causes delays, while there is already a risk that the Submarine Service will run out of ships.

Still, a large section of the House is enthusiastic. The Netherlands is “crossing the Rubicon” with French ships, says Hanneke van der Werf (D66) with satisfaction. The VVD, once a Saab-Damen champion, has also long since converted and is now attacking those who are enthusiastic about an “orange boat”. The image that “we chose a French ship at the expense of the Dutch industry” is not correct, says Silvio Erkens. The ministers of his party (in addition to Van der Maat, also the Minister of Economy, Micky Adriaansens) confirm this. They refer to figures that show that there is little difference between Dutch involvement in the proposals for both shipyards.

Fantastic deal

Tjebbe van Oostenbrugge (NSC) also speaks of “a fantastic agreement that is also very good for the Dutch maritime industry.” Later, when the Secretary of State promised that the National Audit Service (ADR) would report on progress not once but even twice a year, he was completely satisfied.

But the biggest praise for the decision appears to come from the largest opposition party, GroenLinks-PvdA. Jimme Nordkamp cites government documents that emphasize the benefits and says he is “very satisfied” “with the process and the Dutch industrial participation” in the construction of the submarines. According to Adriaansens, this is equivalent to “several hundred million” (in a project valued at 5.6 billion euros). Nordkamp: “The Naval Group offers the best overall balance, we share the ministry’s conclusion.”

So, Van der Maat noted during the debate, there is a large parliamentary majority in favor of the outgoing cabinet quickly signing a contract with Naval Group, if only because, as Van Oostenbrugge (and many others) point out, “a further delay It would be disastrous, also for the people of the Submarine Service who are sitting in the public gallery.

However, that is not the whole story. Because, apart from Chris Stoffer of the SGP, who has been fighting against the Government’s policy on this matter for years, two major parties have made it clear in advance that they have major objections. The largest, the PVV, was always extremely critical and voted in March to postpone the decision. But from the banter Joeri Pool exchanges today, one can conclude that he is not on a political warpath just before a new cabinet takes office.

He is very understanding of the “noises from the maritime sector” he lists: a “fundamentally unequal playing field” leads to Dutch interests being “wasted” and “the foundations of national shipbuilding being destroyed.” But, he also says, a lot has happened since he called the award given to the French in March “a disaster.” Today it is limited to questions about the uncertainty over the placement of American Tomahawks on the new ships and the news that Defense has relaxed control demands at the request of the French by adding phrases about “maximum cooperation to the extent possible within the law national”.

more constructive PVV

He is not entirely convinced by Van der Maat’s answers: that no 100 percent guarantee can be given on the Tomahawks and that the Netherlands has conceded “nothing” to Paris and still has “unlimited access” to French documents. , even though there is a French official. together with him. But his attitude is much more constructive than before. Pool says in closing that his concerns “have not yet been fully addressed” and that the party will discuss internally how it will vote on the motions tabled today.

This appears to clear the way for a contract with Naval Group and give the incoming cabinet a smooth start, unless the PVV still votes in favor of a postponement. But Nordkamp (GL-PvdA) is the one that receives the harshest criticism. Late last week he took the position that if the decision does not have “broad support” in the new cabinet, his group would consider voting in favor of a postponement.

On Monday, Nordkamp, ‚Äč‚Äčlike Pool, backs down. The support of GroenLinks-PvdA “does not depend on the PVV”, he says, but his group seeks “consolation” and “a vision of the political-administrative guarantee of the continuity of this project.”

It takes all the weight of other parties, which talk about “playing with our national security” (Van der Werf) and “a very harmful way of doing politics” (Boswijk). Nordkamp presents a motion for the new cabinet to include in the government program “how it will guarantee the future of this project.”

The vote will take place in a week. And if a postponement motion gets a majority, Van der Maat says, “I will never implement it.”

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