Cabinet survives stormy debate on nitrogen strategy

Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) addresses the four coalition party leaders. Photo: Remko de Waal ANP
Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) addresses the four coalition party leaders. Photo: Remko de Waal ANP

Mark Rutte’s fourth government survived Wednesday night’s stormy debate on the provincial election results, despite apparent cracks in cabinet policy, but most of the opposition supported a vote of no confidence.

Last Friday Rutte told a press conference that the cabinet planned to speed up its plans to combat nitrogen-based pollution, at the same time as the CDA was calling for a pause while the coalition agreement was looked at again.

But Rutte again made the cabinet’s position clear in Wednesday’s debate. The government, he said, is working on measures to tackle major polluters located close to environmentally sensitive countryside and will offer a buy out deal to farmers who want to stop.

Rutte also said that the agreement reached with the CDA – to wait for the formation of 12 new provincial councils – would not necessarily mean any delay. The provincial councils will have a key role in enacting government policy.

Pro-farmers party BBB was the biggest in all 12 provinces and has the lead in the provincial negotiations. Party leader Caroline van der Plas has made it clear that she opposes compulsory farm buyouts and wants a delay in the commitment to reduce nitrogen emissions from 2030 to 2035.

Despite Rutte’s assurances that there would not be a delay in taking action, GroenLinks submitted a no-confidence motion in the government. It was supported by all opposition parties apart from the fundamentalist Protestant SGP, which traditionally does not vote against the government.

The motion was lost by 59 votes to 76.

Opposition MPs said it remains unclear how the government plans to speed up its approach to tackling nitrogen emissions.

For example, the European Commission is currently assessing the buy-out plans to make sure they do not count as illegal state support for industry. In addition, few farmers have reportedly come forward to take advantage of the scheme.

‘It was a frustrating evening for the opposition,’ said NOS commentator Xander van der Wulp. ‘They got no clarity about the nitrogen plans or the 2030 deadline. The coalition parties closed ranks and pushed their differences aside. But they have reached the end of the line when it comes to goodwill – first with the voters and now with parliament.’

RTL correspondent Floor Bremer said that despite the failure of the no confidence vote ‘a cabinet collapse over the nitrogen policy is still in the air’.

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