Dutch PM picks veteran politician as the new FM
THE HAGUE – Agence France-Presse
Seasoned Dutch politician Stef Blok was March 5 named the country’s new foreign minister, stepping in after his predecessor was caught lying about meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“On the recommendation of the prime minister, his Majesty the King hereby appoints S.A Blok as minister of foreign affairs,” the palace said in a statement. Blok will take up the post after being sworn in by King Willem-Alexander today, it added.
The previous foreign minister, Halbe Zijlstra, quit on Feb. 13, tearfully offering his resignation to MPs after admitting he lied about attending a 2006 meeting with Putin.
He had also misquoted the Russian leader as saying he wanted to ensure a “Greater Russia,” comments which drew anger and scorn from Moscow.
The move sparked an unsuccessful vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Zijlstra, a member of Rutte’s Liberal VVD party and a long-time confidante, had only been in the post for four months. His appointment in October had already raised eyebrows due to his lack of experience.
Blok is also a VVD member and served in Rutte’s previous coalition government.
According to Dutch media, Blok, 53, was seen as a safe choice by Rutte, even though he does not have much foreign policy experience.
It is the second time Blok has been asked to step in after an embarrassing resignation.
In 2016 he took over from Justice Minister Ard van der Steur, who was forced out in a scandal over 2.1 million euros paid by prosecutors to a drug baron.