Mark Rutte
Rutte in 2023
14th Secretary General of NATO
Assuming office
1 October 2024
SucceedingJens Stoltenberg
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
14 October 2010 – 2 July 2024
See list
Preceded byJan Peter Balkenende
Succeeded byDick Schoof
Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
In office
31 May 2006 – 14 August 2023
Preceded byJozias van Aartsen
Succeeded byDilan Yeşilgöz
State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science
In office
17 June 2004 – 27 June 2006
Prime MinisterJan Peter Balkenende
Preceded byAnnette Nijs
Succeeded byBruno Bruins
State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment
In office
22 July 2002 – 17 June 2004
Prime MinisterJan Peter Balkenende
Preceded byHans Hoogervorst
Succeeded byHenk van Hoof
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
31 March 2021 – 10 January 2022
In office
23 March 2017 – 26 October 2017
In office
20 September 2012 – 5 November 2012
In office
28 June 2006 – 14 October 2010
In office
30 January 2003 – 27 May 2003
Personal details
Born (1967-02-14) 14 February 1967 (age 57)
The Hague, Netherlands
Political partyPeople's Party for Freedom and Democracy
EducationLeiden University (BA, MA)

Mark Rutte (Dutch: [ˈmɑr(ə)k ˈrʏtə] ; born 14 February 1967) is a Dutch politician who served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 2010 and 2024. Following his departure from national politics, Rutte will take up the post of NATO Secretary-General in October 2024.[1] Rutte was the leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) from 2006 through 2023.

After embarking on a business management career working for Unilever, Rutte entered national politics in 2002 as a member of Jan Peter Balkenende's cabinets. Rutte won the 2006 VVD leadership election and led the party to victory in the 2010 general election. After lengthy coalition negotiations, he became prime minister of the Netherlands. He was the first liberal to be appointed prime minister in 92 years.[2]

An impasse on budget negotiations led to his government's early collapse in April 2012, but the VVD's victory in the subsequent election allowed Rutte to return as prime minister to lead a coalition between the VVD and the Labour Party (PvdA), which became the first cabinet to see out a full four-year term since 1998. Though the VVD lost seats in the 2017 general election, it remained the largest party. After a record-length formation period, Rutte was appointed to lead a new coalition between the VVD, Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Democrats 66 (D66) and Christian Union (CU).

Though Rutte and his cabinet resigned in response to the childcare benefits scandal,[3][4][5] the VVD won the 2021 general election.[6][7] Rutte began his fourth term in 2022 after another record-length formation period. On 7 July 2023, he announced his government's resignation after his coalition failed to agree on how to handle increasing migration.[8][9] His government took on a caretaker role until the Schoof cabinet was sworn in on 2 July 2024.[10] Due to his ability to come out of political scandals with his reputation undamaged, Rutte has been referred to as "Teflon Mark".[11] He has been described as flexible and pragmatic, willing to accommodate a broad range of political factions in order to address issues.[12]

Early life

Rutte was born in The Hague, in the province of South Holland,[13] in a Dutch Reformed family. He is the youngest child of Izaäk Rutte (5 October 1909 – 22 April 1988), a merchant, and his second wife, Hermina Cornelia Dilling (13 November 1923 – 13 May 2020), a secretary. Izaäk Rutte worked for a trading company; first as an importer in the Dutch East Indies, later as a director in the Netherlands.[citation needed] His second wife was a sister of his first wife, Petronella Hermanna Dilling (17 March 1910 – 20 July 1945), who died while she and he were interned together in Tjideng, a prisoner-of-war camp in Batavia, now Jakarta, during World War II.[14][15] Rutte has seven siblings as a result of his father's two marriages. One of his elder brothers died from AIDS in the 1980s. Rutte later described the deaths of his brother and his father as events that changed the course of his life.[16][17]

Rutte attended the Maerlant Lyceum from 1979 until 1985,[18] specialising in the arts. Although his original ambition was to attend a conservatory and become a concert pianist,[19] he instead went to study history at Leiden University, where he obtained an MA degree in 1992.[20] Rutte combined his studies with a position on the board of the Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy, the youth organisation of the VVD, of which he was the chair from 1988 to 1991.[21]

After his studies Rutte entered the business world, working as a manager for Unilever and its food subsidiary Calvé. Until 1997, Rutte was part of the human resource department of Unilever, and played a leading role in several reorganisations. Between 1997 and 2000, Rutte was staff manager of Van den Bergh Nederland, a subsidiary of Unilever. In 2000, Rutte became a member of the Corporate Human Resources Group, and in 2002, he became human resource manager for IgloMora Groep, another subsidiary of Unilever.[22]

Between 1993 and 1997, Rutte was a member of the national board of the VVD. Rutte also served as a member of the VVD candidate committee for the general election of 2002. Rutte was elected as Member of Parliament in 2003.[citation needed]

Political career

Rutte served as State Secretary (i.e. Deputy Minister) at the Social Affairs and Employment Ministry from 22 July 2002 to 17 June 2004 in the First and Second Balkenende cabinets. Rutte was responsible for fields including bijstand (municipal welfare) and arbeidsomstandigheden (Occupational safety and health). After the 2003 elections Rutte was briefly also a member of the House of Representatives, from 30 January to 27 May 2003.[citation needed]

In 2003, as State Secretary, Rutte advised municipalities to check, exceptionally, Somali residents for social assistance fraud, after some Somalis working in England were also found to receive social assistance benefits in the Netherlands. A Somali man entitled to benefits was stopped by social investigators and checked for fraud on the basis of his external characteristics, after which he refused the investigators access to his home. The Municipal Executive (College van burgemeester en wethouders) of Haarlem decided to withdraw the right of the man to social benefits. He disagreed with this and his appeal was upheld by the administrative judge. The court ruled that "an investigation aimed exclusively at persons of Somali descent is discriminatory" and contrary to the Constitution because this distinction is "discrimination based on race". Rutte rejected the criticism and stated that a change in the law would then be necessary to be able to combat targeted fraud.[23][24][25]

Rutte later served as State Secretary for Higher Education and Science, within the Education, Culture and Science Ministry, replacing Annette Nijs, from 17 June 2004 to 27 June 2006, in the Second Balkenende cabinet. In office, Rutte showed particular interest in making the Dutch higher education system more competitive internationally, by trying to make it more market oriented (improving the position of students as consumers in the market for education). Rutte would have been succeeded by former The Hague alderman Bruno Bruins. Before Bruins could be sworn into office, the second Balkenende cabinet fell. In the subsequently formed Third Balkenende cabinet Bruins succeeded Rutte as State secretary.[citation needed]

Rutte resigned from his position in government in June 2006 to return to the House of Representatives, and he soon became the parliamentary leader of the VVD. Rutte became an important figure within the VVD leadership. Rutte was campaign manager for the 2006 municipal elections.[citation needed]

Party leadership election

After the resignation of Jozias van Aartsen, the VVD having lost in the 2006 Dutch municipal election, the party held an internal election for a new Lead Candidate, in which Rutte competed against Rita Verdonk and Jelleke Veenendaal. On 31 May 2006, it was announced that Mark Rutte would be the next lijsttrekker of the VVD. He was elected by 51.5% of party members. Rutte's candidacy was backed by the VVD leadership, including the party board, and many prominent politicians such as Frank de Grave, former minister of Defence, Ivo Opstelten, the mayor of Rotterdam and Ed Nijpels, the Queen's Commissioner of Friesland. The Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy, the VVD's youth wing, of which he had been chair, also backed him. During the elections he promised "to make the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy a party for everyone and not just of the elite". His youthful appearance has been likened to the successful former leader of the Labour Party, Wouter Bos.[citation needed]

Rutte said that the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party was a group that "the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy could do business with".[26] He had also stated that with the social security ideas of the Labour Party, which he called too socialist, it was unlikely that the VVD would cooperate or form a coalition after the elections.[citation needed]

2006 general election

For the 2006 general election, the VVD campaign with Rutte as leader did not get off to a good start; he received criticism from within his own party.[27] Rutte was said to be overshadowed by his own party members Rita Verdonk and Gerrit Zalm, as well as being unable to penetrate between Wouter Bos and Jan Peter Balkenende, who were generally seen as the prime candidates to become the next prime minister. On 27 November, it became known that Rita Verdonk, who generally held a more populist view on politics, managed to obtain more votes than Mark Rutte; he obtained 553,200 votes against Verdonk's 620,555.[27][28] After repeated criticisms by Verdonk on VVD policy, Rutte expelled her from the party's parliamentary faction on 13 September 2007.[29]

2010 general election

In the 2010 general election, Rutte was once again the lijsttrekker for the VVD. It won 31 seats to become the largest party in the House of Representatives for the first time ever.[30] A long period of negotiations followed, with several personalities succeeding each other, being appointed by Queen Beatrix in order to find out what coalition could be formed. Efforts to form a broad spectrum coalition between the VVD, CDA and PvdA failed. Instead, the only possibility appeared to be a centre-right coalition of liberals and Christian Democrats (CDA), with the outside support of the Party for Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders.[citation needed]

Prime Minister of the Netherlands

Premiership of Mark Rutte
14 October 2010 – 2 July 2024
Mark Rutte
PartyPeople's Party for Freedom and Democracy
Election2010, 2012, 2017, 2021
Appointed byWillem-Alexander of the Netherlands

Official website

First term

Rutte presenting his first cabinet together with Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen (CDA) and coalition partner Geert Wilders (PVV)

After securing support for a coalition between the VVD and CDA, Rutte was appointed as formateur on 8 October 2010; Rutte announced his prospective cabinet, including Maxime Verhagen from the CDA as deputy prime minister. On 14 October, Queen Beatrix formally invited Rutte to form a government, and later that day, Rutte presented his first cabinet to Parliament. The government was confirmed in office by a majority of one, and Rutte was sworn in as Prime Minister of the Netherlands, becoming the first Liberal to serve in the role since Pieter Cort van der Linden in 1918.[30] He also became the second-youngest prime minister in Dutch history, after Ruud Lubbers.[citation needed]

After the victory at the 2011 provincial elections, the VVD secured its status as the lead party within the government. In March 2012, seeking to comply with European Union requirements to reduce the nation's deficit, Rutte began talks with his coalition partners on a budget which would cut 16 billion euros of spending. However, PVV leader Geert Wilders withdrew his party's informal support from the government on 21 April, stating that the proposed budget would hurt economic growth.[31] This led to the early collapse of the government, and Rutte submitted his resignation to Queen Beatrix on the afternoon of 23 April.[32] His government had lasted for 558 days, making it one of the shortest Dutch cabinets since World War II.[31]

Second term

Ahead of the 2012 general election, Rutte was named the VVD's lijsttrekker for the third time. At the election in September, the VVD won an additional 10 seats, remaining the largest party in the House of Representatives; the CDA and PVV saw their number of seats fall significantly.[33] The VVD quickly negotiated a coalition agreement with the Labour Party, and on 5 November 2012, the Second Rutte cabinet was confirmed by a vote in Parliament, seeing Rutte returned as prime minister of a VVD-PvdA coalition government.[citation needed]

In 2014, The Hague held a Group of Seven special meeting after the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in Ukraine with 193 Dutch nationals aboard. During the municipal elections of 2014, the VVD finished third behind local parties and the CDA; at the European Parliament election the same year, it finished fourth. At the 2015 Dutch provincial elections, however, the VVD remained the largest party in the province's legislatures with about 15% of the vote, but lost 23 seats in the States-Provincial.[citation needed]

In April 2016, Rutte was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim to the High-Level Panel on Water. Co-chaired by Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the joint United Nations-World Bank Group panel was set up to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6).[34] That month also saw the 2016 Dutch Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement referendum, which resulted in a rejection. In November 2016 the House of Representatives approved by 132 votes against 18 a ban on the Islamic burqa in some public spaces including schools and hospitals, a bill supported by the VVD.[35]

Rutte's second cabinet completed its full four-year term without collapsing or losing a vote of no confidence, becoming the first cabinet to do so since the First Kok cabinet from 1994 to 1998.[36]

Third term

The VVD went into the 2017 general election with a small lead over the PVV in most opinion polls. Rutte was judged to have managed the 2017 Dutch–Turkish diplomatic incident well according to similar polling. While the VVD lost 8 seats in the general election, the PvdA lost 29, and these seats were split between a number of other parties, leaving the VVD the largest party in parliament for the third successive election. After holding coalition discussions, Rutte negotiated a grand coalition with the CDA, D66 and CU; he presented his third cabinet on 26 October 2017, and was sworn in as prime minister for a third term. The 225 days between the general election and the installation of the government was the longest such period in Dutch history.[citation needed]

Rutte with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 24 May 2018

The coalition agreement's plan to abolish the 15% dividend tax (providing the state €1.4 billion per year) proved highly unpopular, as it had not been mentioned in any party's program, and it later appeared that major Dutch companies like Shell and Unilever had secretly been lobbying for that measure.[37]

In July 2018, Rutte became a topic in international news because of what was considered "typical Dutch bluntness", by interrupting and explicitly contradicting the American president Donald Trump during a meeting with the press at the Oval Office in the White House.[38][39]

Rutte's third government provided materials to the Levant Front rebel group in Syria.[40] In September 2018, the Dutch public prosecution department declared the Levant Front to be a "criminal organisation of terrorist intent", describing it as a "salafist and jihadistic" group that "strives for the setting up of the caliphate".[41]

On 21 March 2018, the Dutch Intelligence and Security Services Act referendum was held. It resulted in a rejection. At the 2019 provincial elections, Rutte's VVD suffered a blow following the victory of right-wing populist newcomer Forum for Democracy (FvD).[citation needed]

During the negotiations for the COVID-19 recovery fund in the European Union, Rutte is considered the unofficial leader of the Frugal Four,[42] demanding loans instead of grants and more conditions on them.[citation needed]

During a parliamentary debate on 9 September 2020, Rutte suggested that the EU could be dissolved and re-formed without Poland and Hungary, as he perceives these countries' governments to be dismantling the rule of law.[43][44][45]

On 15 January 2021, the third Rutte cabinet collectively resigned after publications of research around the childcare subsidies scandal in the Netherlands.[46] Rutte offered his resignation to the King, accepting responsibility for the scandal.[47]

Fourth term

Rutte and U.S. President Joe Biden at the G20 Rome summit, 31 October 2021
Rutte with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 11 July 2022
Rutte with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, 19 January 2023
Rutte with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Tunisian President Kais Saied, 16 July 2023

Following the 2021 Dutch general election, Rutte's VVD party held 34 of 150 seats and was expected to form a new coalition government.[48] After remaining caretaker prime minister for the duration of the longest formation process in Dutch history, on 15 December 2021 he presented a coalition agreement with D66, CDA and CU, the same combination as his previous government.[49]

In October 2022, Rutte said that alleged war crimes and human rights violations committed during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Nagorno-Karabakh should be investigated.[50]

A scandal (Nokiagate) during his fourth term was that it was found out that he had been wiping the majority of SMS text messages of his archaic Nokia mobile phone for years in violation of the archival law, personally judging which messages were to be archived and which messages were to be deleted.[51] His excuse was that his phone memory filled up too quickly. This was not considered a plausible excuse by other ministers.[52] This was also in violation of his campaign promise and coalition accords that stated they wished to restore peoples faith in politics, create a new governance culture and "improve the information provided to the [second] house", that the archival law would be modernized and that information would be made available faster.[52]

In January 2023, the U.S., Japan, and the Netherlands reached an agreement to limit certain advanced chip exports to China.[53] In March 2023, the Dutch government placed restrictions on chip exports in order to protect national security. This measure affected ASML as one of the most important companies in the global microchip supply chain.[54] In January 2024, the Dutch government placed further restrictions on the shipment of some advanced chip-making equipment to China.[55] On 27 March 2024, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Rutte that "no force can stop the pace of China’s scientific and technological progress".[56]

Different stances on immigration policy within his four-party coalition had existed since the coalition government was formed. VVD and CDA supported restrictions on immigration, while D66 and CU opposed them. In 7 July 2023, the parties failed for the last time to reach an agreement and decided unanimously that they could not remain together in the coalition. Immediately, Rutte offered the resignation of his government.[57][58] The king asked that the prime minister and his government continue to carry out their duties in a caretaker capacity.[59]

On 10 July 2023, Rutte announced his departure as political leader of the VVD and that he would leave politics when a new government took over.[60][61] Early general elections were held on 22 November 2023.

In October 2023, he condemned the Hamas attack on Israel and expressed his support to Israel and its right to self-defense.[62] On 23 October 2023, Rutte visited Israel to express solidarity with the country. He met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.[63] He rejected calls for a ceasefire in the 2023 Israel–Hamas war but supported "humanitarian pauses" to provide aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip.[64][65] In February 2024, a court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to stop exporting parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel.[66]

In February 2024, Rutte visited Saudi Arabia and spoke with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about "broad cooperation."[67]

On 26 February 2024 Rutte travelled to Paris, where Emmanuel Macron was holding an emergency summit over the situation in Ukraine, as they had suffered the loss of Avdiivka due to shell hunger. Czech PM Petr Fiala proposed to purchase 500,000 rounds of artillery ammunition for Volodymyr Zelensky's forces. This was the second time in one month the Czech government had aired the matter. The French had previously vetoed the idea to purchase the ammunition from foreign sources.[68] The government of Rutte announced, through him on that day in Paris, that it would provide €100 million for this purpose.[69] On 1 March Rutte increased the commitment to €250 million for Fiala's venture, as he went to Kharkiv to tour with Zelensky an underground metro station that had been repurposed into a primary school. There they signed the Netherlands-Ukraine bilateral security agreement.[70][71]

Rutte with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands on 10 March 2024

In March 2024, Rutte threatened Israel with sanctions if the Israeli military launched a large-scale invasion of Rafah, saying the attack would be a "game changer" and have "political consequences."[72]

During a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March 2024, Rutte discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and tried to persuade China, which has provided Russia with diplomatic cover and economic support through trade, to exert its influence on Russia. Rutte said that "this is a direct security threat for us, because if Russia will be successful in Ukraine, it will be a threat to the whole of Europe. It will not end with Ukraine."[73]

On 14 April 2024, Rutte condemned the Iranian strikes against Israel and reiterated the necessity for sanctions against Iran.[74][75] Rutte said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) should be added to the EU's terrorism blacklist.[75]

In May 2024, Rutte's government authorized Ukraine to use Dutch-supplied F-16 fighters to strike targets inside Russia.[76][77] Rutte attended the June 2024 Ukraine peace summit. He interpreted Putin's proposal for peace talks as a sign of panic.[78]

The Schoof cabinet, which had been formed following the general election and was led by Dick Schoof, was sworn in on 2 July 2024 bringing an end to Rutte's last term as prime minister.[79]

Secretary General of NATO

Rutte speaks in Helsinki 2024

Rutte was appointed to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of NATO on 1 October 2024. Despite previously stating he wanted to focus on high school teaching after his prime ministership, he announced his candidacy for the position in October 2023. His bid received public support from the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France in February 2024.[80][81][82][83] Rutte managed to overcome opposition from the last holdouts, Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania, in the months thereafter, with his only opponent, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, dropping out a week before his official appointment on 26 June 2024.[80][84][85]


Personal life

Rutte is single.[13][91] He is a member of the Dutch Protestant Church.[92] As prime minister, Rutte still taught social studies on Thursday mornings at the Johan de Witt College, a secondary school in The Hague.[20][93][94] Rutte is known to be a big fan of the writing of Robert Caro, especially his 1974 book about Robert Moses, The Power Broker.[95] He drives a Saab 9-3 estate.[96] As of 2024, he has lived for several decades in an apartment in Benoordenhout, a neighbourhood of The Hague.[97][98]

See also


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