Firm basis for new cabinet, says Wijffels

The three parties involved in forming a new cabinet will get down to detailed negotiations next week, Herman Wijffels, the man leading the talks, said this afternoon. After three ‘intensive’ days in the relaxed atmosphere of a country estate in Friesland the ‘firm basis’ for a coalition agreement had been laid, Wijffels said.

The party leaders – the Christian Democrat’s Jan Peter Balkenende, PvdA’s Wouter Bos and ChristenUnie’s André Rouvoet – had held some 30 hours of talks, Wijffels said. ‘There was a broad joint vision of what should happen in the Netherlands,’ he said. Next week’s talks would not take place in The Hague but at a variety of locations, Wijffels said.
Commentators say the first issues to be discussed next week are likely to be the most difficult to reach agreement on. The CDA and PvdA are sharply divided on state pensions, mortgage tax relief, housing rents, foreign policy and the introduction of market forces into healthcare.
Rouvoet is also coming under pressure from his supporters to make an issue out of gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. Fifteen out of the 25 CU regional chairmen say the party should pull out of the coalition negotiations if such issues are not included.
Meanwhile, researchers at Groningen University have used computer simulation methods to predict the outcome of the talks. They say the new government will have a strong emphasis on the family.
The three parties hope to have finalised their coalition agreement before the provincial elections on March 7.

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