Cabinet talks on picking ministers are slow as deadline nears

Chief negotiator Richard van Zwol arrives for Monday's talks. Photo: Robin Utrecht ANP

The leaders of the four parties in talks on forming a new right-wing government in the Netherlands will meet again on Monday as efforts continue to divide up the ministerial jobs between them and find suitable candidates.

The talks are being chaired by Dick Schoof, the former spy chief who will be the next prime minister once a cabinet has been agreed.

It is now two weeks since Schoof was put forward for the job of prime minister and since then there has been little movement. There are just over two weeks to go before the deadline of June 26, when the new cabinet is due to pose for photographs with the king, one week ahead of the summer recess.

The talks on dividing up the 20 or so ministerial positions are proving trickier than expected, sources told the Volkskrant. In addition, the four parties have agreed that half the new team should be appointed from “outside” politics and that, the paper said, is making the hunt for ministers more complicated.

In addition, Schoof’s insistence on being “above” the four parties has led to conflict over the heavyweight position of finance minister, which should go to the VVD, given it is the second biggest party in the coalition. But that leaves the far-right PVV, as the biggest party, without one of the two big cabinet jobs, the paper points out.

Meanwhile, an analysis of the new government’s plans by senior servants has highlighted several concerns, in particular the cuts the new administration wishes to make to the civil service.

This could, for example, lead to the closure of ministries and diplomatic missions abroad, which would be unwise at a time of so much geopolitical conflict, civil servants say.

Civil servants also warn that downgrading the government’s plans for combating climate change and reducing nitrogen-based pollution could give rise to new legal disputes and will not be approved by Brussels either.

Education minister officials have also said they doubt €293 million can be saved by limiting international student numbers and warn that increasing value value-added tax on books to 21% will hit school budgets hard.

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