Dries van Agt

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Dries van Agt
Van Agt in 1980
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
19 December 1977 – 4 November 1982
See list
Preceded byJoop den Uyl
Succeeded byRuud Lubbers
Ambassador of the European
Union to the United States
In office
1 January 1990 – 1 April 1995
Preceded byRoy Denman
Succeeded byHugo Paemen
Ambassador of the European
Union to Japan
In office
1 January 1987 – 1 January 1990
Preceded byLaurens Jan Brinkhorst
Succeeded byJean-Pierre Leng
Queen's Commissioner of
North Brabant
In office
1 June 1983 – 22 April 1987
Preceded byJan Dirk van der Harten
Succeeded byFrank Houben
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
28 May 1982 – 4 November 1982
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byMax van der Stoel
Succeeded byHans van den Broek
Parliamentary leader in the
House of Representatives
In office
10 June 1981 – 24 August 1981
Preceded byRuud Lubbers
Succeeded byRuud Lubbers
In office
8 June 1977 – 19 December 1977
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byWillem Aantjes
Parliamentary groupChristian Democratic Appeal
Leader of the Christian
Democratic Appeal
In office
10 December 1976 – 25 October 1982
See list
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byRuud Lubbers
Deputy Prime Minister
In office
11 May 1973 – 8 September 1977
Prime MinisterJoop den Uyl
Preceded byRoelof Nelissen
Molly Geertsema
Succeeded byGaius de Gaay Fortman
Member of the House
of Representatives
In office
16 September 1982 – 16 June 1983
In office
10 June 1981 – 9 September 1981
In office
8 June 1977 – 19 December 1977
In office
23 January 1973 – 22 April 1973
Parliamentary groupChristian Democratic Appeal
Catholic People's Party
Minister of Justice
In office
6 July 1971 – 8 September 1977
Prime MinisterBarend Biesheuvel
Joop den Uyl
Preceded byCarel Polak
Succeeded byGaius de Gaay Fortman
Personal details
Andreas Antonius Maria van Agt

(1931-02-02)2 February 1931
Geldrop, Netherlands
Died5 February 2024(2024-02-05) (aged 93)
Nijmegen, Netherlands
Political partyChristian Democratic Appeal
Other political
Catholic People's Party
(until 1980)
SpouseEugenie Krekelberg
Residence(s)Nijmegen, Netherlands
Alma materRadboud University Nijmegen
(LL.B., LL.M.)

Andreas Antonius Maria "Dries" van Agt (Dutch: [ˈdris fɑn ˈɑxt] ;[1] 2 February 1931 – 5 February 2024) was a Dutch politician, jurist and diplomat who served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 19 December 1977 until 4 November 1982. He was a prominent leader of the Catholic People's Party (KVP) and later its successor party, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA).

Van Agt was known for his abilities as a skillful debater and negotiator. During his premiership, his cabinets were responsible for several major public sector and civil service reforms and further reducing the deficit following the recession in the 1980s. Van Agt continued to comment on political affairs as a statesman until he suffered a major stroke in May 2019 which forced him to undergo rehabilitation. He held the distinction as the oldest living and earliest serving former prime minister following the death of Piet de Jong in July 2016, until his own death in February 2024.

Early life[edit]

Andreas Antonius Maria van Agt was born in Geldrop in the Netherlands Province of North Brabant in a Roman Catholic family. After receiving his diploma Gymnasium-A at the Augustinianum he studied at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, where he received his Doctorate in Law in 1955. After graduating, he practiced law in Eindhoven until 1957, after which he worked in the office of legal and business affairs of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries until 1962. From 1962 to 1968, he worked for the Ministry of Justice.


Minister and deputy prime minister[edit]

Prime Minister Dries van Agt and German Leader Helmut Kohl at the Ministry of General Affairs on 13 September 1978.
Vice President of the United States Walter Mondale and Prime Minister Dries van Agt during a press conference at Airport Schiphol on 21 April 1979.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher and Prime Minister Dries van Agt at the Catshuis on 6 February 1981.
Chancellor of West-Germany Helmut Schmidt and Prime Minister Dries van Agt during a press conference at Airport Schiphol on 9 July 1982.
Dries van Agt and Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Het Torentje on 18 April 2011.

Van Agt entered politics as a member of the Catholic People's Party, which merged with the other two major Christian Democratic parties in 1980 to form the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). From 1968 to 1971, Van Agt was Professor of Criminal Law at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. From 1971 to 1973, he was Minister of Justice in the government of Barend Biesheuvel.[2] He caused outrage when he tried to pardon the last three Nazi war criminals still in Dutch prisons in 1972. From 1973 to 1977 he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice in the government of Joop den Uyl.[2]

Leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal[edit]

In 1976, Van Agt was elected the first Leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal, then still a federation of the three religious parties Christian Historical Union, Catholic People's Party and Anti-Revolutionary Party, which first ran in 1977 with a united list (the merger followed in 1980). With Van Agt as top candidate, the Christian Democratic Appeal reversed in 1977 years of decline to return to power.

Prime minister in the Cabinet Van Agt I[edit]

In the parliamentary elections of May 1977 the Labour Party obtained their largest number of seats, so a second Den Uyl coalition looked likely. However, the tension between the Catholic People's Party and the Labour Party in the last reign, combined with the fact that a coalition between Christian Democratic Appeal and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy was possible, the talks failed after a period of seven months. Eventually Van Agt negotiated a deal with Hans Wiegel, leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. From 19 December 1977 to 11 September 1981 Van Agt was Prime Minister of the Netherlands and Minister of General Affairs in the Cabinet Van Agt I.

Prime minister in the Cabinet Van Agt II[edit]

In 1981, the Christian Democratic Appeal, People's Party for Freedom and Democracy and Labour Party lost parliamentary seats, so a continuation of a Christian Democratic Appeal-People's Party for Freedom and Democracy coalition was not possible. Van Agt, leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal, was forced to go in coalition with the Labour Party. Also Democrats 66 (which, under Jan Terlouw gained a significant number of seats) participated in the coalition talks, after three months of difficult negotiations that resulted in the Cabinet Van Agt II (11 September 1981 – 29 May 1982). In this composition Van Agt worked with Joop den Uyl again as Den Uyl was made Deputy Prime Minister and "super minister" of Social Affairs and Employment. The characterological and political differences led to several divisions, and in May 1982 the government fell.

The personal strife between Van Agt and Den Uyl were so deteriorated that when Den Uyl died from a brain tumor in 1987, Van Agt was not invited to the memorial by the family. Den Uyl's wife Liesbeth argued that Van Agt had prevented the second Den Uyl coalition from forming in 1977.

Prime minister in the Cabinet Van Agt III[edit]

The caretaker government went through as a minority cabinet, with only ministers from the parties Christian Democratic Appeal and Democrats 66, in the Cabinet Van Agt III. For replacing the six Labour Party ministers, five new Christian Democratic Appeal and Democrats 66 ministers were in place, while van Agt in the cabinet, as well as being prime minister was also Minister of Foreign Affairs.

New parliamentary elections were organized for September 1982. Although Van Agt, by this point was worn out, he was persuaded again to be Leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal but shortly after the election he withdrew as a candidate for prime minister and was succeeded by Ruud Lubbers.

After politics[edit]


Dries van Agt served as Ambassador of the European Community to Japan from 1987 to 1990 and to the United States from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1996, he was a Visiting Professor of International Relations at the University of Kyoto.


Until his death, Van Agt was Prime Counsellor for the International Forum for Justice and Peace, a foundation under Dutch law, registered at the Chamber of Commerce in Amsterdam. Chaired by retired international businessman Ben Smoes, they are currently focused on justice and peace in regard to the Israel/Palestine conflict.


Dries van Agt, September 2010, Amsterdam

Van Agt lectured in May 2006 in Cairo at the invitation of the Egyptian electronic magazine Arab-West Report about great changes in the cultural climate of north-western Europe in the past decades, becoming more hostile to religion, including Islam. Muslims, he argued, need to understand those changes to be able to respond better to European criticism on Islam and the Muslim world.[3]

Van Agt also spoke against the Council of State in Egypt for continuous delay in granting the Center for Arab-West Understanding (CAWU) the NGO status. He met with prominent figures in Egypt to persuade them to do so. The Egyptian Council of State, after van Agt's visit to Cairo in 2006, ruled on 18 February 2007 that the center should be recognized as an NGO under Egyptian law, ending its three-year struggle to obtain this status. Egypt is known for its reluctance in granting NGO status to discourage political participation. Cornelis Hulsman, a Dutch sociologist, the editor-in-chief of Arab-West Report, and the head of CAWU, stated that van Agt's effort significantly impacted the realization of their goals, which usually requires a lengthy amount of time and scrutiny in its political purposes.

For some years he took an outspoken stance regarding the Middle East, resulting in a fierce criticism of the policies undertaken by the government of Israel with regard to the Palestinians. When in office, van Agt was a staunch supporter of Israel, but after he stepped down in 1982 he changed his mind.[4] According to his own words an important turning point was a visit at the late nineties at Bethlehem University on the Israeli-occupied West Bank.[5][6] He accused Israel of "state terrorism" and turning the Palestinian Authority territories into "bantustans".[7]

In 2009, Van Agt founded The Rights Forum, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting a “just and sustainable Dutch and European policy regarding the Palestine/Israel issue”.[8] In 2012, he said that Jews should have a state in Germany instead of Israel.[9] In September 2016, in reference to the visit of Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to the Netherlands, van Agt argued that the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the building of settlements there constituted a war crime under the Rome Statute and suggested that Netanyahu should have been sent to the International Criminal Court.[10]

Personal life and death[edit]

The Van Agts in 1981

Van Agt was known for his use of archaic language and complicated phrasing, as well as for his love for cycling. He married Eugenie Krekelberg in 1958, and they had three children[2] and seven grandchildren, including professional cyclist Eva van Agt [nl]. In 2012, he joined the Advisory Board of the International Museum for Family History. Van Agt lived until his death in Heilig Landstichting, near Nijmegen.

Van Agt and his wife, after choosing euthanasia, died on 5 February 2024, three days after his 93rd birthday.[11] According to family, the couple died holding hands.[12] Van Agt had previously suffered a debilitating brain hemorrhage while giving a speech in 2019.[8]



Ribbon bar Honour Country Date Comment
Honorary Medal for Initiative and Ingenuity of the Order of the House of Orange Netherlands 19 September 1974
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Orange-Nassau Netherlands 9 December 1982


Ribbon bar Award Country Date
Honorary citizen of Geldrop Netherlands 1988
Honorary citizen of Lille France 1998
Honorary citizen of North Brabant Netherlands 2002
Cannabis Culture Award of the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum Netherlands 12 November 2009

Honorary degrees[edit]

Honorary degrees
University Field Country Date Comment
Radboud University Nijmegen Law Netherlands
Ritsumeikan University Political science Japan
Kwansei Gakuin University Political science Japan
Hansung University Law South Korea
University of South Carolina Political science United States


  1. ^ van in isolation: [vɑn].
  2. ^ a b c "Wie is Dries van Agt?". NTR Focus (in Dutch). Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  3. ^ For the full text of his lecture, entitled, "Cultures between Clash and Reconciliation: The Role of the Media and Academia," see AWR, 2006, week 53, art. 3
  4. ^ "Former Dutch PM champions Palestinian cause" Archived 13 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Radio Netherlands Worldwide (10 December 2009).
  5. ^ (in Dutch) "De bekering van Dries van Agt" Archived 19 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine, HP|DE TIJD, 29 September 2006
  6. ^ (in Dutch) "Ik kan het wel uitschreeuwen", interview oud-premier Dries van Agt, NRC Handelsblad, 22 August 2009
  7. ^ Cnaan Liphshiz, 'Dutch Jimmy Carter' accuses Israel of terrorism in new book Haaretz (27 June 2008).
  8. ^ a b "Former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife die 'hand in hand' by euthanasia at age 93". Associated Press. 9 February 2024. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  9. ^ Former Dutch PM: Jews should have had a state in Germany, The Times of Israel (11 November 2012).
  10. ^ Cockburn, Harry (6 September 2016). "Former Dutch PM calls Benjamin Netanyahu a 'war criminal' who should be tried in The Hague". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Oud-premier Dries van Agt (93) overleden". NOS (in Dutch). 9 February 2024. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  12. ^ Van Agt and wife "died holding hands"

External links[edit]

Party political offices
New title Leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal
Succeeded by
Parliamentary leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal
in the House of Representatives

Succeeded by
Preceded by Parliamentary leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal
in the House of Representatives

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Prime Minister
Preceded by Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Succeeded by
Minister of General Affairs
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Queen's Commissioner of North Brabant
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Ambassador of the European Union to Japan
Succeeded by
Preceded by Ambassador of the European Union
to the United States

Succeeded by
Preceded by Oldest living former Dutch Prime Minister
Succeeded by