Politics: Halbe Zijlstra’s lies are fatal for politic career
Voters are massively in favour of leaving office minister of foreign affairs Halbe Zijlstra
Zijlstra told on a party meeting in 2016, that he had been present in the “dacha” of President Poetin of Russia. Poetin would have declared, according to Halbe Zijlstra, that the goal of the Russian president was to recreate the “Bigger Russia”: Baltic states, White Russia, Ukraine and “Kazachstan was also nice to have”. In short, the former USSR.
This is a disaster for PM Mark Rutte: Halbe was a very close friend of Rutte; Zijlstra was also the architect of the present coalition, although it lasted seven months to get all four parties with their noses in the same direction. The elections were March 15 last year, the new ministers were presented last October. Since then Halbe Zijlstra, as minister of Foreign Affairs, did a good job. But a journalist of a Dutch morning paper found traces of lies and that was why Zijlstra handed the King his resignation.
Halbe Zijlstra: CV
- Zijlstra has been a member of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy since 1 February 1994.
- He served as a member of the municipal council of Utrecht from 1998 to 2001, and again from 2003 to 2006.
- Zijlstra was elected to the House of Representatives in the 2006 general election, taking his seat on 30 November. In the House, he was his party’s spokesman on care, energy, sports, higher education and sciences and biotechnology. Shortly after the election, he introduced a bill with measures to tackle football hooligans together with Labour Party MP Hans Spekman, and in 2007 the bill was adopted by Guusje ter Horst, who had become Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations in that year.
- On 14 October 2010, Zijlstra was appointed as State secretary for Education, Culture and Science in the newly installed First Rutte cabinet. In this position, he was responsible for a broad portfolio of policy areas within the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, including higher education, science and knowledge, the training and labour conditions of teachers, culture and cultural heritage. In his two-year term, Zijlstra initiated several changes in higher education policy, including the introduction of scholarships more favourable for long-term students and the creation of the possibility to prolong one’s study in exceptional cases in 2011, and placing base scholarships for Master students under the loan system in 2012. Additionally, Zijlstra initiated budget cuts in the culture sector, sharpening the conditions necessary to be eligible for government subsidies, and merging several cultural funds. These measures saved a total of 200 million euros. After Rutte’s first cabinet lost a motion of no confidence in 2012 and new elections were held, Zijlstra returned to the House of Representatives as chairman of his party’s parliamentary group.
- In 2016, he announced he would not be available for a second term as parliamentary leader after the 2017 general election, but that he aspired to enter the cabinet as a minister.
- On 26 October 2017, Zijlstra became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the third government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. In response to the Turkish invasion of northern Syria aimed at ousting U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds from the enclave of Afrin, Zijlstra said that Turkey had the right to defend itself and its border, but at the same time pleaded with Turkey to show restraint.
- In February 2018 he admitted that he lied about meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2006, during his earlier carreer. While speaking at a VVD conference in 2016, Zijlstra said that he heard Putin speaking about ‘Great Russia’ in 2006, suggesting imperialistic ambitions. He said to a newspaper that he visited Putin in his home in 2006. Putin spoke about ‘Great Russia’, and when asked what he meant with that term, he responded: “Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic States. And oh yes, Kazakhstan was ‘nice to have’,” Zijlstra said.
- In 2018 he corrected that statement that a source had told him about these alleged statements. “The geopolitical meaning of those words was and is great. I therefore thought it was politically important to make these statements public. The source that told me about Putin’s quotation confirmed the events to the Volkskrant, and appreciates the fact that I guarantee anonymity.” Former Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer, who attended several talks with Putin, is the source of the story. Van der Veer told the events to Zijlstra in 2014 but clarified in an e-mail to De Volkskrant that Putin’s 2006 remarks were “meant historically” and “not by himself” interpreted in the sense of “aggression”.
- On 13 February 2018, Zijlstra announced his resignation as Minister of Foreign Affairs in an address to the House of Representatives.