Crisis averted? Five-party coalition agrees austerity package

After just two days of talks, agreement has been reached by a five-party coalition on how to slash the Dutch budget deficit to meet eurozone targets. The Netherlands must submit its austerity package to Brussels by April 30.

Finance minister Jan Kees de Jager has succeeded in making a deal to cut the deficit together with the D66 Liberal democrats, green party GroenLinks and small Christian party ChristenUnie. Last weekend, seven weeks of talks between the minority coalition and anti-immigration PVV collapsed when Geert Wilders’ party pulled out.
Prime minister Mark Rutte described Thursday’s agreement as a ‘fantastic result’ and praised the five party leaders for showing responsibility. De Jager said the result shows the Netherlands is doing all it can to meet Brussels’ demands.
The plans include bringing forward the increase in the state pension age, a two percentage point rise in value-added tax (btw) and higher healthcare fees. An extra ‘crisis tax’ for people on high incomes will also be brought in, according to Nos television.
Parliament is due to debate the financial situation this evening.
The Labour party (PvdA) was sidelined in the high-pressure talks. The Financieele Dagblad says the party had offered to make a ‘serious attempt’ to reach a deal on reducing the budget deficit towards 3% but was ‘not invited’ to join in.
Fair shares
New leader Diederick Samsom said he could not support some of the measures. ‘It is about the whole package. Will the pain be shared fairly?’ he said. In particular he is unhappy at the ‘unnecessary’ decision to bring forward the increase in the state pension age.
The five-party coalition controls 77 of the 150 seats in parliament so is assured of majority support for the time being at least. However, the Netherlands will go to the polls in September to elect a new government.

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