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When European Commission presidents are chosen, there is almost always a well-qualified Dutchman among the also-rans. The historical record is painfully clear. Hopefuls from Holland never quite make it. Frans Timmermans, the Socialist candidate for president, and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, an undeclared candidate, would do well to take a look at what goes wrong.

The origins of the Dutch curse stretch back to 1957. The early favourite to be the first commission president was Sicco Mansholt, a left leaning, plain speaking, pipe smoking Dutchman. His prospects looked good, especially when Jean Monnet, a founding father of the European project, proposed him for the job. But

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