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‘Ties with Leiden University important for prospective prime minister Dick Schoof’

Dick Schoof can also be called the neighbour of the faculty in The Hague. Especially from his role at the NCTV, he worked together a lot with Leiden University and helped advance education and research, says Professor of Terrorism and Counterterrorism Edwin Bakker. ‘There was always room for a critical friend.’

‘Dick Schoof liked to connect with the neighbours. That means us, the Campus The Hague,’ Edwin Bakker, professor at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs said in a reaction to the news that Schoof is likely to become the new prime minister. ‘The connection with Leiden University was important to him.’

Schoof is currently the highest-ranking official at the Ministry of Justice and Security, having previously served as director-general of the AIVD and chief of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) from 2013 to 2018.

‘He invested in PhD research’

Edwin Bakker: ‘From his NCTV position, Schoof has always been committed to the importance of knowledge and research. We have always had chairs at ISGA from the NCTV, first Terrorism Studies and then Intelligence Studies, which were created by him. The NCTV started looking at more topics besides terrorism, such as cyber security. In the field of cyber, he invested in PhD research at Leiden University. Our institute developed further as a result; all kinds of departments were created. He gave us space to do our own PhD research and other forms of fundamental and long-term research in addition to separate research assignments.’

'If he disagrees with you you do get to hear it’

Edwin Bakker worked together with Dick Schoof.

Nice interaction

‘In the end, a lot of people who graduated or obtained a PhD with us went to work for the NCTV. This has led to a nice interaction between education, new knowledge and people, which in turn strengthens the NCTV. For years, the Centre for Professional Learning (CPL) has run a learning course for new people joining NCTV. He and many of his staff have given (guest) lectures there.’

‘There was always room for a critical friend,’ Edwin Bakker has experienced. ‘You don't have to talk down to him, but if he disagrees with you you do get to hear it. I really like that, because you know where you stand.’

‘Schoof really knows very well what a prime minister has on his plate’

‘Good feel for the political game’

Edwin Bakker says he has confidence in Schoof as the new prime minister, even though he has no experience as a politician. ‘He has a good feel for the political game. Actually, he was national security advisor to Mark Rutte and - when it came to security - had got in contact with Rutte and the ministers involved very quickly, which I thought was his strength. He was able to provide politicians with information and advice very quickly. Schoof really knows very well what a prime minister has on his plate.’

‘A grey civil servant sitting far away in a tower, Schoof is definitely not that. He is not just focused on reports and memos, but very much on direct contact. And he has a lot of media experience, especially around crises, such as after terrorist attacks. That is an important element of the being a prime minister. However, the big issues of the Netherlands are not only in the field of security, but also in areas such as housing, environment, migration. We will have to see how he will take that up.’

People within the Institute of Public Administration are also curious to see how Dick Schoof will take on his new role:


Sandra Groeneveld: 'Very special'

Sandra Groeneveld, professor of Public Management:

‘It is obviously very special that two top officials now have the responsibility to form a cabinet, the formateur and the prospective prime minister. That naturally raises questions about what that will mean for political-official relations. It also raises questions for me about the extent to which the cabinet will govern technocratically at a time when there seems to be a need for a unifying narrative and leadership.’

PVV, VVD, BBB & NSC: the four-party coalition

Arco Timmermans, public affairs-expert:

‘The choice of Dick Schoof as the new prime minister was a surprise to almost everyone but still not surprising. The themes of security, justice and crime are more prominent than ever in the outline of the coalition agreement and this is exactly his field. He knows a lot about this as a civil servant who has proven his loyalty and that suits the party leaders. His boldness also fits the motto of this new cabinet. But he will need a lot of intelligence to keep this four-party coalition on track.’

‘He will need a lot of intelligence to keep this four-party coalition on track’

Arco Timmermans: 'Civil servant who has proven his loyalty'.

‘He will face challenges on all fronts’

‘The prime minister in the Netherlands has few more powers than his colleagues in the cabinet, and Schoof will desperately need his experience in detecting undermining activities and his broad view of what is allowed in the process to keep things together. He will face challenges on all fronts: relations between ministers, relations with party leaders in the House and all members of government factions with profiling tendencies, and then also relations with civil servants who will regularly wonder how to get the coalition's plans done in their departments.’

Text: Magali van Wieren

Images: ANP, Arash Nikkhah

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