Viewing cable 06THEHAGUE1782, NETHERLANDS/LEBANON/VENEZUELA/JSF: AMBASSADOR
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|06THEHAGUE1782||2006-08-14 15:03||2011-01-17 00:12||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy The Hague|
VZCZCXRO9888 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHTC #1782/01 2261543 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 141543Z AUG 06 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6543 INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 001782 SIPDIS SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/14/2016 TAGS: PREL PGOV UNSC MOPS NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/LEBANON/VENEZUELA/JSF: AMBASSADOR ARNALL'S 8/14 MEETING WITH PM BALKENENDE REF:... 74802,8/14/2006 15:43,06THEHAGUE1782,"Embassy The Hague",CONFIDENTIAL,06THEHAGUE1768,"VZCZCXRO9888 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHTC #1782/01 2261543 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 141543Z AUG 06 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6543 INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY","C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 001782 SIPDIS SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/14/2016 TAGS: PREL PGOV UNSC MOPS NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/LEBANON/VENEZUELA/JSF: AMBASSADOR ARNALL'S 8/14 MEETING WITH PM BALKENENDE REF: A. THE HAGUE 1768 ¶B. THE HAGUE 1766 Classified By: AMBASSADOR ROLAND ARNALL FOR REASONS 1.4 (B/D). ¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende is confident his Christian Democrats (CDA) will do better than originally expected in the upcoming November elections, possibly even beating Labor (PvdA) to remain the largest party in Parliament. Balkenende welcomed the adoption of UNSCR 1701 on Lebanon, but was noncommittal on a possible Dutch contribution to a peacekeeping force. On Venezuela, Balkenende stressed that Dutch remain concerned about Chavez' ambitions but feel they must take a ""subtle"" approach to dealing with him. The Prime Minister remains committed to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project but wants to avoid handing an election issue to the opposition. Ambassador Arnall briefed Balkenende on upcoming Embassy plans to promote diversity and Muslim outreach and received an enthusiastic response. END SUMMARY. DOMESTIC POLITICS: CDA ON THE REBOUND: --------------------------------------- ¶2. (C) During a 45 minute tour d'horizon meeting with Ambassador Arnall on August 14, an obviously well-rested Prime Minister Balkenende expressed cautious optimism about the Christian Democrats' (CDA) prospects for November's parliamentary elections. He noted that the gap between CDA and the leading opposition Labor Party (PvdA) had narrowed dramatically since the local elections last March, when polls showed PvdA leading by 30 seats; today, only a few seats (4-5) separated the two parties. Balkenende credited the shift primarily to the strong performance of the Dutch economy -- which, he said, vindicated the government's tough reform policies -- but said that PvdA leader Wouter Bos' missteps on pension reform and other issues were also contributory factors. Balkenende made clear that the CDA intended to campaign vigorously on his government's record in upcoming months. LEBANON: DUTCH STILL CAUTIOUS ON PEACEKEEPING ROLE: --------------------------------------------- ------- ¶3. (C) Turning to the Middle East, Ambassador Arnall thanked the Dutch for their strong demonstration of support for UNSCR 1701 (reftel) and generally responsible approach to the conflict. Balkenende reiterated Dutch support for the resolution, but stressed that implementation on the ground could be difficult. In response to the Ambassador's query, Balkenende said the Dutch ""did not rule out"" participating in the anticipated peacekeeping force in some way at some point in the future, but argued that taking on a new military role would be extremely difficult at this time. Dutch forces, he noted, are currently deployed in Africa, the Balkans, Iraq (via NTM-I), and Afghanistan. Adding a new mission during an election year may be too much to ask. Echoing a familiar Dutch theme, Balkenende added that the anticipated deployment provided a good opportunity for ""other allies"" who are not as stretched to shoulder greater international responsibilities. VENEZUELA: ""SUBTLE"" APPROACH NEEDED: ------------------------------------- ¶4. (C) Noting recent Dutch mixed signals regarding Venezuela's bid for a UN Security Council Seat (ref b), Ambassador Arnall pushed for a clear sign of support for Guatemala. Balkenende responded that the issue was being reviewed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He stressed, however, that the GONL remained deeply concerned by Chavez' ""meddling"" in the Dutch Antilles and elsewhere. While the Dutch agreed completely on the need to restrain Chavez' ambitions, they had no interest in needlessly provoking a large and powerful neighbor. For that reason, Balkenende argued that the Dutch had no choice but to deal ""subtly"" with the Venezuelan threat. JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER: POLITICAL HOT POTATO: -------------------------------------------- ¶5. (C) Ambassador Arnall briefed Balkenende on the upcoming Parliamentary visit (septel) to the United States to review the current state of play on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project. Balkenende said that his government remained committed to the project, but cautioned that it could become a difficult issue in an election year. While some senior PvdA leaders, he noted, understood that the JSF was ""the best plane for the best price,"" Balkenende worried that, in the THE HAGUE 00001782 002 OF 002 heat of an election campaign, more extreme elements would force the party to take a hard-line position -- one it would then not be able to change if/when the PvdA came into government. MUSLIM OUTREACH/DIVERSITY DIALOGUE: DUTCH SOCIETY CHANGING: --------------------------------------------- --------------- ¶6. (C) Balkenende expressed strong interest in the Embassy's plans to host a ""Diversity Dialogue"" conference bringing Dutch and U.S. Muslim communities together in November, as well as in its plans to host a follow-up conference on diversity in the workplace. He pointed out that during the Dutch EU Presidency in 2004, he had personally promoted a European-wide discussion of ""values and norms."" Such issues were critical given the demographic and social changes occurring in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. Balkenende agreed with the Ambassador that providing real economic opportunities for immigrants was one of the most important steps in the integration process. COMMENT: -------- ¶7. (C) Recently returned from vacation -- during which Dutch papers ran photos of him sunning on a Mediterranean beach -- Balkenende appeared confident and relaxed throughout the meeting. The devastating results of the March local elections -- after which Balkenende's personal polls reached historic lows -- and June's government crisis are clearly behind him; if anything, these events appear to have energized both Balkenende and the CDA for the difficult fight ahead. While the CDA still lags behind PvdA in most polls, they are gaining ground and -- unlike the PvdA -- can count on at least one other large party -- the Liberals (VVD) -- to help form a majority in Parliament and serve in a coalition government. The real campaigning will not begin in earnest for several weeks, but Balkenende appears not only up to the challenge, but positively eager to at last have an opportunity to get his message out to the public. ARNALL