Zalm updates king on coalition talks as pace slows to a crawl

Gerrit Zalm (left) and Alexander Pechtold (second left). Photo: Robin Utrecht/ Hollands Hoogte

Former finance minister Gerrit Zalm has visited the king to update him on the state of talks to form a new Dutch government, as negotiating parties said progress was being measured in ‘centimetres, not metres’.

Nearly four months after the general election, there is little sign of the four parties – the right-wing VVD, Christian Democrats (CDA), liberal democrat D66 party and the Christian Union (CU) – reaching an agreement in the near future.

In a rare break from the media silence surrounding the negotiations, D66 leader Alexander Pechtold emerged from the negotiations on Monday evening to tell reporters that common ground was still in short supply on sensitive medical ethical issues such as assisted dying, where his party and the CU are diametrically opposed.

‘We haven’t moved forward metres, but we’ve managed centimetres,’ said Pechtold. ‘The differences are big. These have been tough talks.’

CU leader Gert-Jan Segers agreed with Pechtold’s assessment, saying some subjects had been ‘parked’ for the time being because they were too complicated, but was more optimistic about the outcome. ‘We’ve had some good days, it’s been refreshing,’ he said.

The talks entered a new, less formal phase this week, relocating to the Johan de Witthuis in The Hague with a less rigorous dress code.

The negotiators are taking a two-day break until Friday, partly to allow Segers and his party colleague Carola Schouten to go to a U2 concert in Berlin.