Agreement Opposition and Government

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After ten days of negotiations, the government and D66, SGP and ChristenUnie have reached an agreement on the budget for 2014.  What did they agree upon and how does the Netherlands responds to the agreement?

An agreement means compromises and that what it was all about in the last two weeks. When National Dutch Budget was presented by the government and discussed with the House, it became clear that the government needed to discuss things with the opposition. The government coalition has a majority in the House but not in the Senate. So, laws prepared and accepted by the House could easily be stopped from implementation by the Senate. This was clear last week when the pension plans were stopped by the Senate.

After CDA, GroenLinks and 50Plus left the negotiations, (PVV, SP and PvdD didn’t want to negotiate!), the final solution had to come from a rather mixed up group of political parties. On one side the every opposing labor and liberals with the ‘glueing’ party D66, and on the other side the small christian parties SGP and ChristenUnie. Now this mix seemed to be able to work out a solution for the stagnating situation and basically the attitude of what each of those parties share, feeling of responsibility, was the base for the solution.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold - wikipedia

Giving and Taking

D66 has been able to put a big mark on the budget for next year. Besides 650 million euro for quality improvement of education, they were, among other things, able to lower the income tax with 1.5 billion euro and safe the position of the freelancers with 300 million.

SGP and ChristenUnie wanted more things arranged for families and put things in the final agreement like free study books (250 million) and less reduction on child support (560 million). The suffering Defense is also helped by the two christian parties (140 million).

The total of changes in the budget, cost more than 4 billion euro. This will be compensated by a range of things like stimulation of the freeing of capital (1 billion), tax on buying cars (250 million), higher tax on potable water (205 million) and no subsidies for companies (500 million).

D66 was also able to put some things on the list which do not bring in money on the short term but which are important to them. Some of the parts of the social agreement will start earlier. So is the position of flexible workers half a year earlier arranged and will the laws for resignation be changed 6 months earlier.

Press Conference

SGP leader Kees van der Staaij

After the final meeting of the group leaders and the top of the government there was a mutual press conference at the ministry of Finance. The overall feeling of all the negotiators was a feeling of relief. After all the goal was to start governing the country and leading it into a better economy, while the lowest income should not have to suffer too much.

Pechtold was during the negotiations a little bit afraid that the ambition to reform was lost, but now says that he is happy that the government can start doing something and they can help.

Rutte emphasized the importance for this solution since he says that the beginning recovery of the economy needs a government that can work out good plans and implement those plans as policy.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte - wikipedia

Mark Rutte

For Rutte it was especially important to find a solution. Without a solution his second government would have probably not made it the full four years. He would go into the history books as the Prime Minister of two failed governments.

No matter how quick Rutte and Samsom came to an agreement to start after the elections, the sword of the minority in the Senate seemed to be falling down upon them. Their dream was that the opposition parties would be cooperative to help the government with their plans, but in practice the opposition parties were using the Senate as an extension of the House. The Housing Agreement, also with help of SGP, ChristenUnie and D66, made it through the Senate but the pension plans were blocked. It became clear, to Samsom and Rutte, that they could no longer do their job without having a majority in the Senate.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Minister of Finance and chairman of the Euro Group Jeroen Dijsselbloem - wikipedia

Main government negotiator Jeroen Dijsselbloem says in an interview at Buitenhof on Sunday, “The atmosphere in the House had hardened over the last six months. There was not so much discussion about the content anymore but the opposition clearly showed that they would vote against in the Senate on everything.”

We now have to earlier find cooperation with opposition parties in the future. My favorite opposition parties for future negotiations will be D66, SGP and ChristenUnie.”

Dijsselbloem was helped a lot by Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher. The Social Agreement which seemed undiscussable for a long time, had to be negotiable to make it possible to come to a solution. So, Asscher was constantly talking to the social partners, the employers and employees.

Dijselbloem said in the interview on Sunday that, “there is little room for further negotiations with the social partners. In fact there are no real changes on the content. Some parts are put into action earlier. It is a little bit giving and taking for both employers and employees. It is now time that the plans from the final negotiations with the opposition will be put into concept laws.”

Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher - wikipedia

Response society, opposition

PVV says that the agreement is a historical disaster. CDA and SP are milder in their response. SP thinks that the agreement with he opposition is bringing the Netherlands in the wrong direction. CDA says the same but also mentions that they can support some parts of the agreement in the Senate.

From the Unions the CNV already said that they are happy with the outcome. CNV and FNV will discuss the agreement on Monday.

The teachers in the Netherlands are positive about the agreement and, as expected, some parts of Defense and the construction branch as well. The union of water suppliers are angry and the car branch is very disappointed.

About 56 percent of the voters is positive about the agreement. Most negative are PVV, SP and 50Plus voters. The weekly poll by Maurice de Hond shows that VVD, PvdA and D66 win virtual seats in the House and CDA looses seats. PVV is virtually the biggest party in the House.

Before the financial discussions in the House will take place this week, GroenLinks and CDA want the CPB to calculate the plans of PvdA, VVD, SGP, D66 and ChristenUnie.


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