Opposition critical of healthcare, migration, nitrogen plans in coalition debate
Opposition parties opened fire on Mark Rutte, leader of the largest party VVD. Rutte was the first party leader to defend the coalition agreement in the debate on Thursday and was immediately confronted with harsh criticism. PVV leader Geert Wilders said that the VVD does too little to keep migrants out, the PvdA is against cuts in youth care, the SP is critical of planned cuts to healthcare, and party for the animals PvdD believes the coalition parties waited far too long to intervene in the nitrogen crisis.
The opposition is missing one critical voice. Parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt, formerly of the CDA, is absent from the debate due to illness. He confirmed on Twitter that he had tested positive for Covid-19. He's following the discussion at a distance, he said.
SP leader Lilian Marijnissen wanted an explanation for the 4.5 billion euros cut to healthcare up to 2052 included in the coalition agreement. According to Rutte, these involve savings compared to the trend of rising healthcare costs or "slowing down" the costs. In the coming years, extra money will go to healthcare. "In the longer term, the costs rise so quickly," Rutte said. If the Cabinet does nothing, healthcare expenditures will "push other investments out of the nest like a young cuckoo."
According to Marijnissen, it is "the truth that cuts are being made on healthcare." The socialist denounced "budget agreements" and said that the Cabinet has "no respect for people in care."
GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver immediately put an ultimatum on the table. "Remove this cut, don't put it in the books. Then I'm willing to talk about where smart savings can be made quickly."
Rutte called Klaver's demand unrealistic but wants to talk to him about how healthcare costs can be curbed. "Jesse Klaver has a means of power," Rutte noted. The coalition does not have a majority in the senate and therefore needs support from the opposition.
D66 leader Sigrid Kaag called it "a pity that it is being pretended that there are now acute cutbacks." Additional investments will be made during this Cabinet term. "We are looking at less growth in the longer term. That is a completely different story." SP leader Marijnissen was not satisfied with that explanation. "There are a lot of minuses right now," she said.
The upcoming Cabinet "does absolutely nothing to ensure that fewer people come in with asylum," Wilders grumbled during the debate.
PvdD leader Esther Ouwehand wants "self-reflection" from the Cabinet. She believes that far too little has been done to combat the precipitation of nitrogen in nature reserves. In May 2019, the court canceled the old nitrogen approach, and "two and a half years later we still have to work out a plan," said Ouwehand. "Can Mr. Rutte explain how that happened? That even after a court ruling, there was no willingness, will, or knowledge in the Cabinet to come up with a solution."
For PvdA leader Lilianne Ploumen, it is inconceivable that youth care is being cut back. "Undo that cutback," said Ploumen. Rutte emphasized that the caretaker Cabinet (Rutte III) spent money to solve the problems in youth care. In the coming period, the coalition wants to "delineate much more clearly" what youth care is and how municipalities can better be assisted in providing that care.
Sylvana Simons of BIJ1 mainly focused on the handling of the childcare allowance scandal. Rutte, however, did not want to debate with her about the children who were placed out of their parental home as a result of the allowance affair. It is not good to do that "off the cuff," Rutte said. The responsible Ministers are working on it, he said.
In the debate, coalition parties VVD, D66, CDA, and ChristenUnie nominated VVD leader Mark Rutte as fomateur of the new Cabinet. Rutte can then start working on "forming" the new Cabinet. He will start talks with candidate ministers and put together a team. The Cabinet team will consist of 20 ministers and nine state secretaries, according to the report of the informateurs. The new Cabinet will likely be presented in January.
Rutte said in the debate that he would like to continue as Prime Minister. Kaag said she is not yet sure whether she will enter parliament or become a minister again. CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra is again going for a ministerial post to lead his party "from the Cabinet." Gert-Jan Segers will again be the ChristenUnie leader in parliament. "I hope to remain political leader of the ChristenUnie for a while, and he is in parliament."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times