A tenacious negotiator and master of multiple European languages, Dutch politician Frans Timmermans has become the bearded face and impassioned voice of the EU’s efforts to forge an ambitious Green Deal climate pact. But now he is attempting to shake off his image as the quintessential Brussels operator and return to the bear pit of national politics, in a bid to become the Netherlands’s prime minister. The 62-year-old’s term as EU executive vice president had been scheduled to end after next year’s European elections. But the collapse of outgoing liberal premier Mark Rutte’s coalition triggered snap elections to be held on November 22, and Timmermans is expected to lead a joint green and social democrat list at the polls. His selection as the centre-left candidate is expected to be confirmed on Tuesday — he is the sole candidate from the PvdA and GroenLinks parties — but the real electoral challenge is still to come. Even if the joint list puts in a creditable showing in the parliamentary election, Timmermans will have to wield his Brussels-honed powers of back-room persuasion to build a stable coalition. But his image as Brussels environmental supremo could hurt him at a time when Dutch politics has been shaken up by the rapid rise of the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB). The party sprang out of rural opposition to the kinds of environmental protection policies championed by Timmermans at the EU level, and in less than four years it has become a force to be reckoned with. Since 2019, the bicycling father of four has been the political and bureaucratic driving force behind the environmental policies backed by EU chief Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission. But the conservative and centre-right parties represented by von der Leyen’s EPP bloc, with one eye over their shoulders on more radical upstart rivals like the BBB, have been putting their foot on the brakes. Some have demanded a slowdown in EU legislation to impose tighter nature protection laws on agriculture or combat climate change with ambitious net-zero targets for greenhouse emissions. Timmermans has never blinked, fighting to get the Green Deal through, but he will leave Brussels with this work incomplete and return home to a country where such changes face rising scepticism. An imposing former foreign minister with a white beard and a powerful voice — plus a remarkable facility with languages even in a city where most speak two or three — Timmermans arrived in Brussels in 2014. The head of the commission at the time, Luxembourg conservative Jean-Claude Juncker, gave Timmermans, a grandson of miners, a senior role but limited his political room to manoeuvre, an early sign of frustrations to come. In 2019, Timmermans made a bid for Brussels’ most powerful post, becoming the candidate for Commission president for the socialist and centre-left group in the European Parliament. European member state capitals, however, brushed aside all the candidates of right and left backed by MEPs and instead sought out von der Leyen, Germany’s defence minister at the time, to take charge of the EU executive. Timmermans was given an executive vice president role and the Green Deal brief as a consolation prize, and reports suggest that he has sometimes chafed under von der Leyen’s leadership.