Talks on reducing government spending by at least €9bn between the minority coalition and the anti-immigration PVV are making little progress, according to various media reports on Thursday.
The talks began almost three weeks ago and are still in the ‘orientation phase’, sources told the Financieele Dagblad.
Ministries have only been asked general questions about the likely impact of cuts in their departments and officials think it will be six weeks before the negotiations have been concluded, the paper said.
Prime minister Mark Rutte, CDA leader Maxime Verhagen and the PVV’s Geert Wilders are trying to find savings of at least €9bn to get the budget deficit back below 3% by 2013, in line with monetary union rules.
Rutte has denied the talks are proceeding at a slow pace and says discussions are also taking place outside his Catshuis official residence. The three party leaders agreed at the start of the talks not to talk to the media about the details.
The government must submit its plans to the European Commission by April 30. Finance minister Jan Kees de Jager said on Thursday he did not expect any flexibility from Brussels about the deadline.
Nor does he see ‘much room’ for the Commission to treat the situation in the Netherlands as ‘extraordinary economic circumstances’, and so be more lenient about the size of the budget deficit, De Jager is quoted as saying on Thursday.
Labour’s finance spokesman Ronald Plasterk says realistically the cabinet has to find savings of €16bn to meet the Brussels target. Plasterk has called on the government to try to persuade the Commission to grant the Netherlands a two-year extension to meet the 3% deadline.
If Brussels will not agree, Labour will vote against ratifying the new EU budget rules, Plasterk said.
EU warns the Netherlands to keep to EU budget deficit rules
Media blackout surrounds three-party talks