Maintaining 10th position for the third year in a row, the Netherlands hasn’t wavered from its reputation as a progressive and welcoming society. Beyond its cultural highlights (Gouda cheese, tulips, and Delft pottery to name a few), the Netherlands has strengthened its soft power with progressive policies, a world-renowned education system, and significant contribution to international law. The Netherlands is also a leader in combating climate change through off-shore wind-farms and water management infrastructure. Although progressive in a number of ways, the Netherlands was viewed in a different light this year as the far-right, anti-EU, anti-immigration, and anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) revealed the countries’ populist underbelly. However, while the election projected the image of a less-progressive Netherlands, the democratic country proved its progressive stance isn’t going anywhere. Similarly, the Netherlands’ diplomatic “incident” with Turkey – following a decision not to allow Turkish ministers to campaign for a constitutional referendum – didn’t do much to help its global reputation. Nonetheless, the Netherlands has been able to compete with global powers by being at the forefront of development.
While the Dutch election had the world on edge, an impressive voter turnout of 81.9% saw incumbent Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy win 33 seats and begin work to build a coalition with three other parties. The result was praised by leaders worldwide – Angela Merkel congratulated voters on “a good day for democracy”; François Hollande called the election “a clear victory against extremism”; and Jean-Claude Juncker called the vote “an inspiration for many”.
While the Netherlands is widely known for being one of the most accepting societies in Europe (if not the world), the country’s international reputation was challenged this year with the rise of hardliner Geert Wilder’s anti-EU, anti-immigration, and anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV).
The Netherlands has always competed with the world’s soft power heavyweights. However, as a leader in progressive policy, the Netherlands should further extend and promote its views globally. While the most recent incident with Turkey can be interpreted as the Netherlands ‘defending’ their values internationally, the quick escalation of the conflict did not accurately depict the country’s values abroad.