EU climate chief to quit for Dutch general election

By Charlotte Van Campenhout and Foo Yun Chee

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -EU climate chief Frans Timmermans will quit his job at the European Commission to run as a candidate in Dutch national elections in November, depriving the European Union of a heavyweight in upcoming international climate negotiations.

The Dutch Labour and Green Left on Tuesday said Timmermans would be their leader in the Nov. 22 general election.

Timmermans, whose stint at the European Commission ends in November next year, said in July said he wanted a chance to become the next Dutch prime minister.

A Commission official told Reuters that Timmermans will resign from the Commission following the announcement from the Labour and Green parties.

A Commission spokesman earlier on Tuesday declined to comment on the process of picking a successor for the 62-year-old Dutchman who is in charge of the EU’s Green Deal – its wide-ranging package of policies on climate change and the environment.

A replacement is unlikely to have Timmermans’ clout, especially at the UN climate negotiations in November. The Dutchman played a key role in thrashing out a deal at last year’s COP27 summit.

Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni could be called on to take on Timmermans’ responsibilities as both have worked with him on various projects.

The Netherlands is expected to nominate a new candidate for the Commission, but that candidate will not automatically get the responsibilities Timmermans had.

Timmermans, who speaks English, German, French, Italian and Russian in addition to his native Dutch, is a well-known figure in the Netherlands, having served as foreign minister from 2012 to 2014.

Having spent nearly a decade in Brussels, Timmermans will stand in the first Dutch election since 2006 in which outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte will not lead his conservative VVD party.

Rutte, the longest-serving leader of the Netherlands, shocked the nation in July when he announced he would quit following the failure of his four-party coalition government to agree on migration policy.

(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout Yun Chee Foo, writing by Bart Meijer; Editing by Alison Williams, Devika Syamnath and Christina Fincher)