Frits Bolkestein

His Excellency
Frits Bolkestein

Frits Bolkestein in 2011
European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services
In office
15 September 1999  22 November 2004
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Mario Monti
Succeeded by Charlie McCreevy
Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
In office
1 May 1990  30 July 1998
Preceded by Joris Voorhoeve
Succeeded by Hans Dijkstal
Parliamentary leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
1 May 1990  30 July 1998
Preceded by Joris Voorhoeve
Succeeded by Hans Dijkstal
Minister of Defence of the Netherlands
In office
24 September 1988  7 November 1989
Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers
Preceded by Piet Bukman
Succeeded by Relus ter Beek
Undersecretary for Foreign Trade
In office
5 November 1982  14 July 1986
Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers
Preceded by Wim Dik
Succeeded by Enneüs Heerma
Member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
14 September 1989  21 September 1999
In office
3 June 1986  24 September 1988
In office
16 January 1978  5 November 1982
Personal details
Born Frederik Bolkestein
(1933-04-04) 4 April 1933
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Political party VVD (from 1975)
Spouse(s) Femke Boersma
Children 3 children and 1 stepchild
Residence Amsterdam, Netherlands
Alma mater Oregon State University
University of Amsterdam
London School of Economics

Leiden University
Occupation Politician
Corporate director
Website Official site

Frederik "Frits" Bolkestein (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈfreːdərɪk frɪdz ˈbɔlkəstɛi̯n];[1] born 4 April 1933) is a retired Dutch politician of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

Bolkestein a corporate director by occupation, was elected as a Member of the House of Representatives after the Dutch general election of 1977 taking office on 16 January 1978. He served as Undersecretary for Foreign Trade from 5 November 1982, until 14 July 1986, in the Cabinet Lubbers I. And again a Member of the House of Representatives from 3 June 1986, until 24 September 1988, when he became Minister of Defence from 24 September 1988, until 7 November 1989, in the Cabinet Lubbers II. He again returned to the House of Representatives on 14 September 1989, and nine months later on 1 May 1990, he became the Parliamentary leader in the House of Representatives and the Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. He served in this position for eight years until 30 July 1998.

From 15 September 1999, until 22 November 2004, he was the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services. In the European Commission, Bolkestein was responsible for internal market taxation and customs union issues. Some of the more politically sensitive items in his portfolio were the draft community patent regulation and the draft directives on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions and services in the internal market, the so-called "Bolkestein Directive", which has become the focus of heated debate.

Early life and career

Frederik Bolkestein was born on 4 April 1933 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.[2] His father was president of the Court in Amsterdam.[3] His grandfather, Gerrit Bolkestein, was Minister of Education, Arts, and Sciences to the Dutch government-in-exile of 1939 to 1945.[4] Bolkestein's mother was born in the Dutch East Indies to Dutch parents.[5]

Bolkestein attended the Barlaeus Gymnasium in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1951, where he majored in both arts and sciences. Upon completing his gymnasium education, he was an undergraduate in mathematics at Oregon State College from 1951 to 1953. Subsequently he returned to Amsterdam, where he received a bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics in 1955.[2] In 1959 he received a master's degree in philosophy and Greek.[2] Bolkestein subsequently received a BSc from The London School of Economics in 1963, and an LL.M. from Leiden University in 1965.[2]

During his studies in Amsterdam, Bolkestein was editor for the satirical student magazine Propria Cures. He was also a member of the board of the student union ASVA.[2]

Before entering Dutch politics, Bolkestein worked for the oil company Royal Dutch Shell from 1960 to 1975. During this period he was assigned to postings in East Africa, Honduras and El Salvador, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and France. In Paris, he served on the board of the Shell Chimie from 1973 to 1975. During his tenure with Shell, he completed the first part of the economics program at the London School of Economics in 1964 and he also completed a law degree at Leiden University, graduating in 1965.[2]

In 1976, Bolkestein wrote an English language play named Floris, Count of Holland, under the anagrammatic pseudonym of Niels Kobet.[6]


Bolkestein left Shell in 1978 and became a member of parliament for the VVD. From 1982–1986, he served as Minister of International Trade. After joining the parliament again, he was Minister of Defence from 1988–1989. In 1990 he was elected Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy of the VVD, a position he held until 1998. Between 1978 and 1999, when he became European Commissioner, he was member of parliament for 17 years.

During the 1990s, he was very successful as the political frontman of the VVD. As an opinion leader, he was known for his daring and controversial positions on such issues as multicultural problems in Dutch society, political dualism between government and parliament, and the structure and expansion of the European Union. From 1990–1994 he was the parliamentary opposition leader and continued his outspoken and independent style when his party was part of the government from 1994. During the regional elections of 1995, his criticism of Dutch immigration policies made his party the largest of the country.

In 1996, his political integrity came under heavy criticism, because it was revealed he had written a letter to the Minister of Health Els Borst, in which he asked her to help a pharmaceutical company, of which Bolkestein was member of the board of commissioners. The incident was known as the "Dear Els"-incident, because the letter was addressed to Borst personally.

He was president of the Liberal International, the world federation of liberal political parties. Since Autumn 2004, he has been a professor at the Dutch universities of Leiden and Delft. Former Irish finance minister Charlie McCreevy succeeded him as Commissioner for the Internal Market.[7]

He is also preparing a book on the influence of intellectuals on political life.

He authored a number of books on politics and related subjects. Frits Bolkestein is married to Femke Boersma, a retired Dutch actress. In 2005, his house in northern France had its electricity cut briefly by the local energy company after he criticized French protectionist measures against incoming electricians from Eastern Europe.

Also, he is on the advisory board of OMFIF where he is regularly involved in meetings regarding the financial and monetary system.

Bolkestein Directive

Named after Frits Bolkestein, the Directive on services in the internal market aims at enabling a company from a given member-state to recruit workers in other European Union countries using the law of its home country. It triggered huge protests in Europe. This directive was voted in the European Parliament in March 2006 and the MEPs proposed amendments to the provisional text. The "principle of origin", which stipulates that workers are employed under the legal arrangements of their own state of residence, was replaced by a new "freedom" principle – freedom to provide services, meaning that administrative obstacles should be removed. The compromise allowed the draft Directive to continue to exist. However, there was a great deal of concern about its effect on social standards and welfare, triggering competition between various parts of Europe. This led to significant protests across Europe against the directive including a notable protest at the European Parliament in Strasbourg by port workers which led to damage to the building. MEPs eventually reached a compromise on the text and the Parliament adopted it on 12 December 2006; 2 years after Bolkestein left office, under the Barroso Commission.

Bolkestein as member of the House of Representatives in 1980


In 2001, Bolkestein responded to the question raised by European MPs (MEP) Harlem Désir, Glyn Ford and Francis Wurtz, who asked the Commission to investigate the accusations brought forward by Révélation$, a book written by investigative journalist Denis Robert and former Clearstream member Ernest Backes, and to ensure that the 10 June 1990 directive (91/308 CE) on control of financial establishment be applied in all member states in an effective way. Commissioner Frits Bolkestein applied that "the Commission has no reason to date to believe that the Luxembourg authorities do not apply it vigorously". (sic) The three MPs henceforth published a press statement asking the opening of an investigation by the European Union about the correct application of the 10 June 1990 directive.[8][9]

On 26 April 2006, French daily 20 minutes revealed that "in May 2005, MEP Paul van Buitenen was shocked by Frits Bolkestein's presence in Bank Menatep's international consultative council (owned by Russian magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky), a sulfurous Russian banking establishment, and by his work for Shell, British-Dutch petrol company. Two firms 'detaining secret accounts in Clearstream' ... Van Buitenen, also Dutch, then asked for 'clarification' to the European Commission and the opening of a parliamentary investigation. The Commission's president, José Manuel Barroso, answered that these facts "don't bring up any new question" and that it is not known "if Menatep took contact with Bolkestein while he was in his functions". No investigation thereby took place." The free daily underlines that "in 2001, it was Bolkestein himself that announced the Commission's refusal to open up a parliamentary investigation on Clearstream", following MEP Harlem Désir's requests and accusations that Menatep had an "undeclared account" at Clearstream. Bolkestein refused to answer any questions by the newspaper.[10]

On 18 May 2010, Frits Bolkestein advocated for the legalization of all drugs in an article called; "Red het land, sta drugs toe" which translates to; "save the nation, allow drugs" in the NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch newspaper. The article is endorsed by many professionals ranging from Els Borst, former Dutch minister of public health, to many jurists, professors and drug experts.

A protest against the Bolkestein Directive in Brussels in 2005

In “Het Verval” (The Decline), a book about Jews in the Netherlands written by Manfred Gerstenfeld, a Holocaust survivor and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Bolkestein is quoted as having said that practicing Jews had no future in the Netherlands, due to anti-semitism among Turkish and particularly Moroccan immigrants, and that they should emigrate to the United States or Israel. Bolkestein's remarks, after having been published in a Dutch newspaper,[11] raised a storm of criticism in December 2010. According to Ronny Naftaniel, head of the Jewish organisation CIDI, this was not the first time Bolkestein has expressed this view.[12]

Published books


  1. Frits in isolation: [frɪts]
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Prof.Mr.Drs. F. Bolkestein". Parlement & Politiek (in Dutch). Leiden University. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  3. "Biografie: Frits Bolkestein" (in Dutch). Nova. 25 September 2003. Retrieved 2 March 2008.
  4. "G. Bolkestein". Parlement & Politiek (in Dutch). Leiden University. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  5. Dutch: De Groene Amsterdammer: De politieke roots van Geert Wilders
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Bolkestein, Frits. "List of published books". Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  7. IT has key economic role, says new EC president Computer Weekly16 August 2004
  8. (French) Harlem Désir's official website (European MPs Harlem Désir, Glyn Ford and Francis Wurtz press statement about the $1.5 trillion math error & Denis Robert and Ernest Backes' book "Revelation$" and a 9 May 2001 op-ed in Le Monde titled "Les 'boîtes noires' de la mondialisation financière" ("The black box of financial globalization") by Bernard Bertossa, attorney general in Geneva, Benoît Dejemeppe, king's attorney in Brussels (procureur du roi, procureur des konings), Eva Joly, investigative magistrate in Paris, Jean de Maillard, magistrate in Blois and Renaud van Ruymbeke, judge in Paris)
  9. (English) / (French) "André Lussi, CEO of Clearstream, stepping down – interview of Denis Robert" (PDF). Tobin tax. June 2001.
  10. "Révélation 20 Minutes: Quand la Commission européenne refusait d'enquêter sur Clearstream" (in French). 20 minutes. 26 April 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2006.
  11. Peter Wierenga (5 December 2010). "Bolkestein: 'Joden, emigreer!'" (in Dutch). De Pers. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  12. Cnaan Liphshiz (7 December 2010). "Top Dutch politician: Jews should emigrate to Israel or U.S.". Haaretz. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
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Government offices
Preceded by
Wim Dik
Undersecretary for Foreign Trade
Succeeded by
Enneüs Heerma
Preceded by
Piet Bukman
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Relus ter Beek
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joris Voorhoeve
Leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
Succeeded by
Hans Dijkstal
Preceded by
Joris Voorhoeve
Parliamentary leader of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
in the House of Representatives

Succeeded by
Hans Dijkstal
Political offices
Preceded by
David Steel
President of the Liberal International
Succeeded by
Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck
Preceded by
Mario Monti
European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services
Succeeded by
Charlie McCreevy
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