Verhagen: street fighter and diplomat from Maastricht
February 22, 2007 Leave a Comment
With his appointment as Foreign Minister, Maxime Verhagen sees the fulfilment of a long-cherished wish. Although, he is known as a tough negotiator, insiders say he possesses the diplomatic gifts so necessary for his new post.
Verhagen was born in Maastricht on 14 September 1956. His father was an alderman in this southernmost city of the Netherlands and a Limburg provincial executive. His grandfather was a journalist and alderman in Sittard for 40 years.
Verhagen joined the Christian democrats (CDA) at the age of 20. A year earlier, he began his study of contemporary history at the University of Leiden, over which he took no less than 11 years (1975-1986). In the meantime, he worked his way up in the party.
Between 1984 and 1987, Verhagen was on the personal staff of an MP and subsequently, to 1989, on the staff of the CDA MPs involved with European affairs, development aid and trade policy. In this period, he was also a member of Oegstgeest municipal council.
In 1989, he became an MEP, switching in 1994 to the Dutch Lower House. He was spokesman for asylum policy, foreign affairs and European affairs. In July 2002, he became parliamentary leader of the CDA. There were short interruptions in this function when held by CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende during elections.
Verhagen is known as a ‘street fighter,’ who does not hesitate to wipe the floor with his opponents. With Balkenende as the statesman and Verhagen as attacker, CDA had a tandem strategy that won the general elections last November.
De Volkskrant described Verhagen in February 2005 as a ‘Don Corleone with his heart in the right place’. He plays the negotiating game hard, but knows well where the boundaries lie. Labour (PvdA) sources say it was mainly Verhagen, not CDA leader Balkenende, with whom the coalition accord was worked out.
Verhagen belongs to the right wing of the party, according to most insiders. He also belongs to the Roman Catholic camp, where Premier Balkenende belongs to the Protestant one. He enjoys wind-surfing and skiing, and is married with two sons and a daughter.
Although Verhagen is known as a supporter of strong transatlantic links, he is also European-minded. Around 1990, he was a member of the CDA ‘Eurosiasmering’ working party which encouraged support for Europe. From 1996 to 2003, he was a member of the management of the Atlantic Commission and in the same period, board member of the Netherlands European Movement (EBN). He was also on the supervisory board of two foundations for the Settlement of Uninsured Claims on the former Soviet Union and Iran from 2002 to 2004.
Until yesterday, Verhagen was chairman of the Lower House committee for the Intelligence and Security Services. This strictly confidential committee consists of all party leaders. Earlier, he was deputy chairman of the Lower House standing committee for foreign affairs, from September 1998 to November 2001.
Source: NIS News, ANP, 23 February 2007