Dutch prime minister calls for dialogue

The Netherlands is in a position to achieve ‘great things’ in the 21st century, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende told MPs on Thursday. In his first speech since the formation of the new centre-left government, Balkenende said there was ‘enormous strength, creativity and passion’ in the country. The new cabinet would make the most of these talents, he said.

Balkenende called for an entrepreneurial society, that would show daring. And he emphasised the new government’s commitment to dialogue with interest groups. ‘Policy which has been achieved through dialogue is stronger than policy which has been made on a drawing board in The Hague,’ he said.
The new government was in a strong starting position, he said. The country’s finances are solid, the social security system and health service have been reformed and the economy is growing, the prime minister said. And he praised outgoing finance minister Gerrit Zalm for the ‘craftsmanship’ which he had shown over the past 12 years.
The new centre-right government, a coalition between the Christian Democrats (CDA), PvdA (Labour) and orthodox ChristenUnie, will have to deal with both right and left-wing opposition.
MPs will debate Balkenende’s speech this afternoon. ‘You will see some odd alliances (of left and right),’ Femke Halsema, leader of GroenLinks told ANP.
Mark Rutte, leader of the second-biggest opposition party, the VVD (Liberals) said he had heard nothing new in the prime minister’s speech. Pieter van Geel, leader of the CDA in parliament, said it was a ‘trustworthy story with good vision’.

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