Rutte: Meeting on urgent political issues was a good talk with no decisions
The top members of the Cabinet and the coalition parties’ faction leaders discussed the purchasing power problem, nitrogen emissions policy, and the refugee crisis for about three hours in the Catshuis on Thursday. According to Prime Minister Mark Rutte, it was a good conversation that took place in a pleasant atmosphere, but he does not want to comment further about the content of the discussion. No decisions were made during the talks at the official residence of the prime minister.
"That was not the intention," Rutte said after the meeting.
In the coming period, the Cabinet and the party leaders will meet a few more times, as happened in advance of the budget update known as the Spring Memorandum, Rutte said.
The politicians at the Catshuis only discussed purchasing power, the refugee crisis, and the nitrogen emissions crisis, Rutte said. Although the prime minister prefers not to refer to them as crises - "otherwise you will get crisis inflation" - but rather calling them "serious topics."
No attempt was made to get everyone on the same page during the first meeting. "It was really looking at what is important to everyone, without trying to see differences or bridge the gaps," Rutte said. Such talks will be held within the coalition in the coming weeks, when it comes to the budget for next year, which is due in September. "We will talk more about this in the near future."
The substantive budget discussions, both in the political groups and in the Cabinet, will be held next week, according to the prime minister. The figures from the Central Planning Bureau (CPB) that will be presented on Friday are of great importance, Rutte acknowledges. On Friday, the CPB will present its economic outlook for this year and next has been updated.
The Cabinet and the coalition parties will have a number of difficult puzzles to solve in the coming weeks, D66 party chairman Jan Paternotte acknowledged before the meeting. It will "certainly be difficult" to find solutions for the three issues that were on the agenda.
He affirmed D66 does not support stopping asylum seekers from entering the country to solve the shortage of reception places for them, as is being advocated in VVD circles. "I think the State Secretary has clearly said that is not possible." According to Paternotte, the influx is not the problem either. He does think that those who have exhausted all legal remedies should be expelled from the country more quickly.
D66 also sees no room to take more time to achieve the targets for reducing nitrogen emissions. This solution approach appeals to both VVD and CDA, but Paternotte does not support it in the least. Nature and nitrogen minister Christianne van der Wal, herself from the VVD, has already ruled out a postponement.
CDA leader and foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra gave an interview to AD saying that it should no longer be set in stone to achieve the nitrogen targets by 2030.
Paternotte and his fellow party leaders said earlier this week that the Cabinet will have to come up with more measures to prevent families from getting into trouble due to the sharply increased energy and fuel prices. "We will have to do something to help with the energy bill," the D66 member repeated.
Reporting by ANP