Parties still struggling with issues of "principle" in formation talks

The end of the Dutch government formation talks between the VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie is not yet in sight, the party leaders confirmed on Wednesday following the first day of talks after the summer vacation. The D66 and ChristenUnie are still struggling to agree on issues of "principle" like abortion and assisted suicide.

"We have started again. Everybody has energy, energy to solve differences, but also to defend their own views with additional strength", D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said on Wednesday, reports. According to him, there are still "difficult points" on the table. 

It is well known that the D66 only reluctantly agreed to enter formation talks with the ChristenUnie. The two parties' standpoints differ greatly, especially on topics like medical ethics, the soft drugs policy and the future of the European Union. At an earlier stage Pechtold called it undesirable to work with Gert-Jan Segers and his party. But after negotiations with GroenLinks failed, and all other feasible possibilities declined being part of the talks, the ChristenUnie was the only option left for a coalition that will have a majority in both the Senate and parliament. 

Pechtold thinks that exchanging themes is an option - a strategy followed by the VVD and PvdA when forming the Rutte II cabinet, according to the newspaper. For example, one party largely gets its way in education, the other on social security. He added that their aim is not to work out every detail. "Sometimes you must be confident that, as negotiators, you will handle things on a large scale and leave the details to the ministers", he said, according to

Whether ChristenUnie leader Segers feels the same is unclear. "The agreements are made inside. Whether I agree or not, I say inside not outside", he said to the newspaper on Wednesday. He acknowledged that the negotiators have been "busy for a while" on medical ethics issues, but that all involved feel a big responsibility to make this work. 

According to Segers, the parties are managing to agree of financial-economic terms, but not so much on matters of principle. "About money you can make compromises. On principles you can't", he said.

VVD leader Mark Rutte and CDA leader Sybrand Buma declined to comment. The parties are meeting again on Thursday.