Frits Bolkestein

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Frits Bolkestein
Frits Bolkestein in 2007
European Commissioner
In office
16 September 1999 – 22 November 2004
PresidentRomano Prodi
Preceded byMario Monti
as European Commissioner for Internal Market
Succeeded byCharlie McCreevy
as European Commissioner for Internal Market
President of the Liberal International
In office
15 April 1996 – 18 April 2000
Preceded bySir David Steel
Succeeded byAnnemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck
Leader of the People's Party
for Freedom and Democracy
In office
30 April 1990 – 30 July 1998
See list
Preceded byJoris Voorhoeve
Succeeded byHans Dijkstal
Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in the House of Representatives
In office
30 April 1990 – 30 July 1998
Preceded byJoris Voorhoeve
Succeeded byHans Dijkstal
Minister of Defence
In office
24 September 1988 – 7 November 1989
Prime MinisterRuud Lubbers
Preceded byPiet Bukman (ad interim)
Succeeded byRelus ter Beek
State Secretary for Economic Affairs
In office
5 November 1982 – 14 July 1986
Serving with Piet van Zeil
Prime MinisterRuud Lubbers
Preceded byWim Dik
Succeeded byEnneüs Heerma
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
14 September 1989 – 21 September 1999
In office
3 June 1986 – 24 September 1988
In office
16 January 1978 – 5 November 1982
Parliamentary groupPeople's Party for
Freedom and Democracy
Personal details
Frederik Bolkestein

(1933-04-04) 4 April 1933 (age 91)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Political partyPeople's Party for
Freedom and Democracy

(since 1975)
RelativesGerrit Bolkestein
Alma materUniversity of Amsterdam (BSc, MA)
London School of Economics (MSc)
Leiden University (LLM)
OccupationPolitician · Energy executive · Nonprofit director · Political commentator · Lobbyist
Website(in Dutch) Official site

Frederik "Frits" Bolkestein (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈfreːdərɪk frɪdz ˈbɔlkəstɛi̯n] ;[1] born 4 April 1933) is a Dutch retired politician and energy executive who served as Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) from 1990 to 1998 and European Commissioner for Internal Market from 1999 until 2004 under Romano Prodi.

Bolkestein worked as a corporate director for Royal Dutch Shell from May 1960 until July 1976 and as a manager for an engineering company in Amsterdam from September 1976 until January 1978. Bolkestein became a member of the House of Representatives shortly after election of 1977 taking office on 16 January 1978 serving as a frontbencher and spokesman for Economic Affairs. After the election of 1982 Bolkestein was appointed as State Secretary for Economic Affairs in the Cabinet Lubbers I taking office on 5 November 1982. After the election of 1986 Bolkestein was not offered a cabinet post in the new cabinet and returned to the House of Representatives on 3 June 1986 serving as a frontbencher and spokesman for Foreign Affairs and International trade. Bolkestein was appointed as Minister of Defence in the Cabinet Lubbers II following a cabinet reshuffle taking office on 24 September 1988. After the election of 1989 Bolkestein again returned to the House of Representatives on 14 September 1989. Shortly after the election, party leader and parliamentary leader Joris Voorhoeve announced he was stepping down and Bolkestein announced his candidacy to succeed and was selected as his successor on 30 April 1990.

For the election of 1994, Bolkestein served as lijsttrekker (top candidate) and following a successful cabinet formation with Labour Leader Wim Kok and fellow Liberal Leader Hans van Mierlo formed the Cabinet Kok I with Bolkestein opting to remain as Parliamentary leader. Bolkestein also served as President of the Liberal International from 15 April 1996 until 18 April 2000. For the election of 1998 Bolkestein again served as lijsttrekker (top candidate) but shortly thereafter announced that he was stepping down on 30 July 1998 but continued to serve in the House of Representatives as a backbencher. In August 1999 Bolkestein was nominated as the next European Commissioner in the Prodi Commission, and was giving the heavy portfolios of Internal Market and Services and Taxation and Customs serving from 16 September 1999 until 22 November 2004.

Early life and career[edit]

Frederik Bolkestein was born on 4 April 1933 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.[2] His father was president of the Court in Amsterdam.[3] His grandfather, Gerrit Bolkestein, was Minister of Education, Arts, and Sciences to the Dutch government-in-exile of 1939 to 1945.[4] Bolkestein's mother was born in the Dutch East Indies to Dutch parents.[5]

Bolkestein attended the Barlaeus Gymnasium in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1951, where he majored in both arts and sciences. Upon completing his gymnasium education, he was an undergraduate in mathematics at Oregon State College from 1951 to 1953. Subsequently, he went to the University of Amsterdam, where he received a BSc degree in mathematics and physics in 1955.[2] In 1959, he received a MA degree in philosophy and Greek from the same university.[2] Bolkestein subsequently received a BSc degree from The London School of Economics in 1963, and an LLM degree from Leiden University in 1965.[2]

During his studies in Amsterdam, Bolkestein was editor for the satirical student magazine Propria Cures. He was also a member of the board of the student union ASVA.[2]

Before entering Dutch politics, Bolkestein worked for the oil company Royal Dutch Shell from 1960 to 1975. During this period he was assigned to postings in East Africa, Honduras and El Salvador, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and France. In Paris, he served on the board of the Shell Chimie from 1973 to 1975. During his tenure with Shell, he completed the first part of the economics program at the London School of Economics in 1964 and he also completed a law degree at Leiden University, graduating in 1965.[2]

In 1976, Bolkestein wrote an English language play named Floris, Count of Holland, under the anagrammatic pseudonym of Niels Kobet.[6]


Member of the House of Representatives Frits Bolkestein during a debate on the 1980s oil glut in the House of Representatives on 26 June 1980.

Bolkestein left Shell in 1976 and became a member of parliament for the VVD. From 1982 to 1986, he served as Minister of International Trade. After joining the parliament again, he was Minister of Defence from 1988 to 1989. In 1990, he was elected Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy of the VVD, a position he held until 1998. Between 1978 and 1999, when he became European Commissioner, he was member of parliament for 17 years.

During the 1990s, he was very successful as the political frontman of the VVD. As an opinion leader, he was known for his daring and controversial positions on such issues as multicultural problems in Dutch society, political dualism between government and parliament, and the structure and expansion of the European Union. From 1990 to 1994 he was the parliamentary opposition leader and continued his outspoken and independent style when his party was part of the government from 1994. During the provincial elections of 1995, his criticism of Dutch immigration policies made his party the largest of the country.[7]

In 1996, his political integrity came under heavy criticism, because it was revealed he had written a letter to Health Minister Els Borst, in which he asked her to help a pharmaceutical company, of which Bolkestein was member of the board of commissioners. The incident was known as the "Dear Els"-incident, because the letter was addressed to Borst personally.

He was president of the Liberal International, the world federation of liberal political parties. Since Autumn 2004, he has been a professor at the Dutch universities of Leiden and Delft. Former Irish finance minister Charlie McCreevy succeeded him as Commissioner for the Internal Market.[8]

He authored a number of books on politics and related subjects. Frits Bolkestein is married to Femke Boersma, a retired Dutch actress. In 2005, his house in northern France had its electricity cut briefly by the local energy company after he criticized French protectionist measures against incoming electricians from Eastern Europe.

In 2010 he was awarded the Prize for Liberty by the Flemish classical-liberal think tank Libera!. Also, he is on the advisory board of OMFIF where he is regularly involved in meetings regarding the financial and monetary system.[citation needed]

Bolkestein Directive[edit]

Named after Frits Bolkestein, the Directive on services in the internal market aims at enabling a company from a given member-state to recruit workers in other European Union countries using the law of its home country. It triggered huge protests in Europe.[citation needed] This directive was voted in the European Parliament in March 2006 and the MEPs proposed amendments to the provisional text. The "principle of origin", which stipulates that workers are employed under the legal arrangements of their own state of residence, was replaced by a new "freedom" principle – freedom to provide services, meaning that administrative obstacles should be removed. The compromise allowed the draft Directive to continue to exist. However, there was a great deal of concern about its effect on social standards and welfare, triggering competition between various parts of Europe. This led to significant protests across Europe against the directive including a notable protest at the European Parliament in Strasbourg by port workers which led to damage to the building. MEPs eventually reached a compromise on the text and the Parliament adopted it on 12 December 2006; 2 years after Bolkestein left office, under the Barroso Commission.


In 2001, Bolkestein responded to the question raised by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Harlem Désir, Glyn Ford and Francis Wurtz, who asked the Commission to investigate the accusations brought forward by Révélation$, a book written by investigative journalist Denis Robert and former Clearstream member Ernest Backes, as well as to ensure that the 10 June 1990 directive (91/308 CE) on control of financial establishment be applied in all member states in an effective way. Commissioner Bolkestein applied that "the Commission has no reason to date to believe that the Luxembourg authorities do not apply it vigorously" [sic]. The three MEPs henceforth published a press statement asking the opening of an investigation by the European Union about the correct application of 10 June 1990 directive.[9][10]

On 26 April 2006, French daily 20 minutes revealed that "in May 2005, MEP Paul van Buitenen was shocked by Frits Bolkestein's presence in Bank Menatep's international consultative council (owned by Russian magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky), a sulfurous Russian banking establishment, and by his work for Shell, British-Dutch petrol company. Two firms 'detaining secret accounts in Clearstream' ... Van Buitenen, also Dutch, then asked for 'clarification' to the European Commission and the opening of a parliamentary investigation. The Commission's president, José Manuel Barroso, answered that these facts "don't bring up any new question" and that it is not known "if Menatep took contact with Bolkestein while he was in his functions". No investigation thereby took place." The free daily underlines that "in 2001, it was Bolkestein himself that announced the Commission's refusal to open up a parliamentary investigation on Clearstream", following MEP Harlem Désir's requests and accusations that Menatep had an "undeclared account" at Clearstream. Bolkestein refused to answer any questions by the newspaper.[11]

On 18 May 2010, Bolkestein advocated for the legalization of all drugs in an article called; "Red het land, sta drugs toe" which translates to; "save the nation, allow drugs" in the NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch newspaper. The article is endorsed by many professionals ranging from Els Borst, former Dutch minister of public health, to many jurists, professors and drug experts.

In Het Verval ("The Decline"), a book about Jews in the Netherlands written by Manfred Gerstenfeld, a Holocaust survivor and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Bolkestein is quoted as having said that practicing Jews had no future in the Netherlands, due to antisemitism among Turkish and particularly Moroccan immigrants, and that they should emigrate to the United States or Israel. Bolkestein's remarks, after having been published in a Dutch newspaper,[12] raised a storm of criticism in December 2010. According to Ronny Naftaniel, head of the Jewish organisation CIDI, this was not the first time Bolkestein has expressed this view.[13]


Published books[edit]

  • (1976) Floris, Count of Holland as Niels Kobet[6]
  • (1982) Modern Liberalism[6]
  • (1990) De Engel en het Beest[6]
  • (1992) Woorden hebben hun betekenis[6]
  • (1994) Islam en Democratie with Mohammed Arkoun[6]
  • (1995) Het Heft in Handen[6]
  • (1997) Moslim in de Polder[6]
  • (1998) Boren in hard Hout[6]
  • (1998) Onverwerkt Verleden[6]
  • (2004) De Grenzen van Europa[6]
  • (2005) Grensverkenningen[6]
  • (2006) De twee lampen van de staatsman[6]
  • (2006) Peut-on réformer la France?[6]
  • (2008) Overmoed en onverstand
  • (2009) De politiek der dingen
  • (2011) De goede vreemdeling
  • (2011) De intellectuele verleiding (The Intellectual Temptation)
  • (2013) Cassandra tegen wil en dank
  • (2015) De succesvolle mislukking van Europa, co-edited with Paul Cliteur and Meindert Fennema


  1. ^ Frits in isolation: [frɪts]
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Prof.Mr.Drs. F. Bolkestein". Parlement & Politiek (in Dutch). Leiden University. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Biografie: Frits Bolkestein" (in Dutch). Nova. 25 September 2003. Archived from the original on 22 August 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2008.
  4. ^ "G. Bolkestein". Parlement & Politiek (in Dutch). Leiden University. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  5. ^ Dutch: De Groene Amsterdammer: De politieke roots van Geert Wilders
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bolkestein, Frits. "List of published books". Archived from the original on 10 March 2008. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  7. ^ Provinciale Staten 8 maart 1995 at
  8. ^ IT has key economic role, says new EC president Computer Weekly16 August 2004
  9. ^ (in French) Harlem Désir's official website Archived 3 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine (European MPs Harlem Désir, Glyn Ford and Francis Wurtz press statement about the $1.5 trillion math error & Denis Robert and Ernest Backes' book "Revelation$" and a 9 May 2001 op-ed in Le Monde titled "Les 'boîtes noires' de la mondialisation financière" ("The black box of financial globalization") by Bernard Bertossa, attorney general in Geneva, Benoît Dejemeppe, king's attorney in Brussels (procureur du roi, procureur des konings), Eva Joly, investigative magistrate in Paris, Jean de Maillard, magistrate in Blois and Renaud van Ruymbeke, judge in Paris)
  10. ^ (in English and French) "André Lussi, CEO of Clearstream, stepping down – interview of Denis Robert" (PDF). Tobin tax. June 2001.
  11. ^ "Révélation 20 Minutes: Quand la Commission européenne refusait d'enquêter sur Clearstream" (in French). 20 minutes. 26 April 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2006.
  12. ^ Peter Wierenga (5 December 2010). "Bolkestein: 'Joden, emigreer!'" (in Dutch). De Pers. Archived from the original on 11 December 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  13. ^ Cnaan Liphshiz (7 December 2010). "Top Dutch politician: Jews should emigrate to Israel or U.S." Haaretz. Retrieved 9 December 2010.

External links[edit]

European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services and Taxation and Customs
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the People's Party
for Freedom and Democracy

Succeeded by
Parliamentary leader of the
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
in the House of Representatives

Preceded by Lijsttrekker of the
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy

1994 • 1998
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by State Secretary for
Economic Affairs

With: Piet van Zeil
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Piet Bukman
Ad interim
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the
Liberal International

Succeeded by
Preceded by European Commissioner
from the Netherlands

Succeeded by