"In secret": Greens rejoin new Dutch cabinet formation talks

Catshuis in Den Haag
The official home of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, the Catshuis. April 1999photo: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed

In what is believed to be the first substantive progress to government formation in the Netherlands since mid-May, Prime MInister Mark Rutte, the head of the conservative VVD party, is meeting Thursday with political leaders Sybrand Buma (CDA), Alexander Pechtold (D66) and Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks). They will be joined by new coalition mediator Tjeenk Willink, sources have told news agency ANP, the first time the four parties have attempted to break their deadlock in over three weeks.

RTL Nieuws claims that the talks, which started Thursday morning in secret, took place in the Catshuis in Den Haag, the official residence of the Dutch prime minister. A day earlier, the mediator already met with the VVD and GroenLinks leaders privately at his home in Scheveningen. Before this, Willink met with the former three party’s leaders twice over the Pentecost weekend, also in confidence.

There has been no official statement regarding the talks, which have not yet materialized into formal negotiations. However, this is the first occasion where the four Dutch parties are seated at the same table after their coalition negotiations with the former mediator, outgoing health minister Edith Schippers, halted on May 15. These ended over unresolved differences concerning migration and the growing wealth gap. The VVD and CDA support the implementation of migration deals with African countries, modeled after the EU-Turkey Deal, which would allow European countries to send migrants back to African soil directly.

GroenLinks argues that those wanting refuge should always be able to apply for asylum in the European Union. After the formation talks ended, Jesse Klaver stated that the lowest ‘limit of principle’ was reached. He also said that the options for their collaboration in a four-party cabinet had run out, stating a "period, not a comma" had been put behind the discussion. However, this seems to have changed as Klaver commented "We are always willing to talk" after meeting with Willink, Trouw reports.

The ballot results left few options for the Dutch coalition formation that would hold a majority in the Parliament, particularly as Rutte wants a coalition made up of fewer than five parties. The ChristenUnie, "the only other viable candidate to join the three biggest parties" according to Schippers, was shot down by the D66 after their negotiations at the end of May. They disagreed too strenuously on too many topics, such as abortion and policies tied to the European Union.

ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers did state that, in his opinion, the potential for a coalition with the VVD, CDA, D66 and CU is not yet "over and done." The SP and PvdA have maintained positions as opposition parties to date, and have not formally entered into cabinet negotiations.