Formal negotiations for Dutch government formation start today

Jesse Klaver
Jesse Klaver. Photo: BoelensLeon / Wikimedia Commons

The first formal and substantive negotiations for forming a government with the VVD, CDA, D66 and GroenLinks start at 9:30 this morning. The parties will try to find common ground and make agreements on a number of major issues, including employment, income distribution, the tax system, the energy transition and the environment, security and defense, immigration and integration, education and healthcare, NOS reports.

The negotiations are expected to be difficult, but not impossible. GroenLinks especially differs vastly in opinion on a range of topics. For example, GroenLinks wants to increase benefits, a higher tax on capital and profits, a broader asylum policy and several forms of pollution tax. These are points that can count on little agreement from at least part of the VVD.

GroenLinks is not planning to join a right-wing cabinet just to soften the policy, the party wants real change, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said during the parliamentary debate on the election results on Tuesday. "We aren't participating to get rid of the sharp edges", Klaver said, AD reports. According to him, they are examining whether a real "agenda for change" is possible.

CDA leader Sybrand Buma warned that Klaver will have to compromise. "The final outcome of the negotiations will never be the positions of GroenLinks."

It's not only GroenLinks that has positions the other parties find difficult to support. The other three parties also have ideals in their election program that the other negotiators are reluctant to fall behind. Such as the VVD's plan to increase the landlord levy. And the D66's plan to legalize soft drugs and allow assisted suicide at the end of a full life.

On top of these differences, the negotiating parties are also facing pressure from other parties. PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher insisted that Klaver ask the new government for a new social agreement with employers and employees. He believes this is necessary for the much needed support for the new government. And SP leader Emile Roemer is pressuring Klaver not to fold on his viewpoints, though he is skeptical that Klaver will succeed. He referred to former PvdA leader Diederik Samsom, who according to Roemer squandered his ideals when joining forces with the VVD in 2012, by calling Klaver a "Samsommetje", or "little Samsom" in English.

And where GroenLinks is facing pressure from the left, the CDA is facing similar statements from the Christian-right. SGP leader Kees van der Staaij reminded Buma of his words on the eve of the election, when he said that Klaver will have to find someone else to govern with. Klaver suggested a left-wing/Christian coalition. The SGP would rather see the ChristenUnie in the new government than GroenLinks.

Despite all these differences, there are also many similarities and possibilities to compromise, informer and negotiation leader Edith Schippers said, according to NOS. And the parties will focus on those similarities in the coming time, she added. 

All four parties will have two negotiators. In addition to party leaders Mark Rutte, Sybrand Buma, Alexander Pechtold and Jesse Klaver, there will be Halbe Zijstra for the VVD, Pieter Heerma for the CDA, Wouter Koolmees for the D66 and Kathalijne Buitenweg for GroenLinks. They will negotiate each day in two sessions - from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

On Wednesday there will only be a morning session from 9:30 to 10:30 because Buma is in Malta for an international meeting for Christian Democrats. And on Friday there will only be an afternoon session, because departing Prime Minster Rutte and Health Minister Schippers have to attend the weekly cabinet meeting. 

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