New cabinet sworn in, portfolios discussed

The new Dutch cabinet was sworn in by Queen Beatrix today, 91 days after the general election. It is the fourth cabinet to be led by Christian Democrat (CDA) leader Jan Pieter Balkenende and is a centre-left coalition of the CDA, Labour (PvdA) and the small orthodox ChristenUnie party.

Before the swearing-in ceremony, ministers met to finalise the division of ministerial responsibilities. In particular the policy areas which will fall under two new posts – youth and family, and housing and integration – need to be finalised.
And teachers have already criticised the fact that education minister Ronald Pasterk is to focus on higher education, media and culture. The job of sorting out serious problems in primary and secondary schools will be left to the department’s two junior ministers who are not part of the cabinet. The first real meeting of the council of ministers, or inner cabinet, will be held on Friday.
The oldest minister in the cabinet is 58-year-old Piet Hein Donner who is responsible for social affairs. The youngest is transport minister Camiel Eurlings who is 33. The new government has been jokingly called the ‘VU cabinet’ because all three coalition party leaders studied at Amsterdam’s (Christian-based) Vrije University.
The new cabinet has taken longer than average to put together. The 19 post-war cabinets have been formed in an average of 81 days.

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