Dutch cabinet talks restart, tricky issues to be tackled next week

Zalm starts off talks with the four coalition hopefuls. Photo: Roel Rozenberg via HH

The four parties involved in talks on forming a new coalition government will start by tackling ‘immaterial issues’ to get them out of the way, says new chief negotiator Gerrit Zalm.

The combination of VVD, D66, Christian Democrats and ChristenUnie is the only option to form a majority coalition and talks will now start in earnest, over 100 days since the Netherlands held its general election.

‘You do want to wait to the end deal with all the subjects which can cause problems,’ Zalm said in a short news conference late on Wednesday. ‘And you only want to include issues in the coalition agreement which fit in the new cabinet’s profile.’

There are wide differences between the Liberal democratic party D66 and the Christian party ChristenUnie when it comes to medical and ethical issues. Observers say the biggest obstacle is likely to be D66’s support for measures to help the elderly who feel their lives have been completed to die.

D66’s support for embryo research and regulated marijuana cultivation are also likely to prove major sticking points.

Every day

Zalm said he intends to meet with the four party leaders and their seconds every day but will roster in a ‘short holiday’ and that a ‘speedy coalition’ is not his main aim.

He also said that the final coalition agreement will not be a ‘thick document’ and will not cover all policy areas in great detail.

On Thursday and Friday the four parties will talk in general about financial and economic issues with central bank and CPB officials and will be briefed by the socio-cultural think-tank SCP on general trends in society.

Immigration and climate change – other policy areas where the four parties do not agree – may also be looked at next week.