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Coalition accord: the latest leaks

MPs from the right-wing VVD and the Labour party (PvdA) will meet today, Monday, to discuss the draft coalition accord which will form a blueprint for a new coalition government, Nos reported on Sunday. Although the measures will be applicable to the European Netherlands initially, some of these measures may also affect the legislation of the Dutch Caribbean later.  The trend is set.

Samson and Rutte

The broadcaster says the agreement has been assessed by the government’s macro-economic advisory body CPB which sees no reason to change any of the policies which the two parties have now agreed.

Many of the measures leaked out last week. They include the phasing out of mortgage tax relief, a €1bn cut in development aid and the scrapping of health insurance benefit.


The CPB’s approval means the way is now clear for the agreement to be voted on by the two parties’ MPs and for ministers to be appointed.

Sources in The Hague have told Nos that Halbe Zijlstra, the current junior education minister, will be the new VVD parliamentary party, replacing Stef Blok. He is tipped for the new post of minister of housing and government services.

VVD parliamentarian and former MEP Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert is set to become the first female minister of defence, sources have told Nos. Henk Kamp, currently social affairs minister, will move to the economic affairs and farming job. Other names leaked out last week.

The agreement: the latest leaks

Despite the official wall of silence around the coalition formation talks between the right-wing VVD and Labour party (PvdA), Monday’s papers again contain a number of leaks about what their strategy entails.

The Telegraaf says the new coalition is planning to launch a major overhaul of local government by merging town and district councils into authorities of at least 100,000 people. At the moment, just 25 of the country’s 415 local authorities have populations of more than 100,000.

In addition, sources have told the paper the new coalition will also look at potentially merging some of the provinces. For example, Noord Holland, Utrecht and Flevoland could be merged into a single authority, the paper says.

Nos television quotes sources as saying the two parties have decided not to press ahead with the introduction of a kilometre tax on driving. Labour had included the introduction of road pricing in its election manifesto.

Other measures in the coalition agreement which have been leaked or made public earlier include:

• Mortgage tax relief will be reduced by 0.5% a year from 2014 for both new and current mortgages
• The highest tax band in Holland will be cut from 52% to 49%
• The third tax band in Holland will go down from 42% to 38%
• Healthcare benefit will be scrapped
• Health insurance premiums will become income-dependent
• €1bn will be cut from the development aid budget
• The defence ministry will get extra cash for peace missions
• Student grants will be replaced by loans and the fine for slow students will be scrapped.
• Tax on insurance will be doubled to 21%
• Civil servants will no longer be able to refuse to marry gay couples
• Local councils will have the right to decide whether or not to allow Sunday shopping
• A limited amnesty for refugee children who have become rooted in the Netherlands
• Plans to make it easier for companies to sack staff will be reversed.

What the papers say

Leaks about the right-wing VVD and Labour party PvdA’s plans for government show clear decisions are being made, according to newspaper editorials.

The Financieele Dagblad says the coalition agreement shows that the two parties have been able to agree on a straightforward exchange of policies rather than getting bogged down in endless compromise.

That was the two party leaders’ standpoint when they started talking six weeks ago and they would appear to have succeeded.

Key issues

Both parties have given way on key issues, the FD states. For example, despite election pledges, the VVD has agreed to allow changes to the tax break on current mortgage and Labour has agreed to cuts in spending on development aid.

But it would be wrong to accuse the VVD of misleading voters, the FD says. Mark Rutte said keeping the tax break on current mortgages was a ‘top priority’ but not a reason to break off the negotiations.

The same also applies to Labour leader Diederik Samsom’s position on development aid. Labour’s decision to abandon the international standard of 0.7% of GDP shows a new realism within the party.

Positive approach

The Volkskrant says the contours of the new agreement make a positive impression. The positive way the parties have agreed to give way on certain issues is much better for the country than the negative approach of the past.

Nevertheless, the plans will be painful for a large number of people and the new cabinet is right to involve the unions and employers in order to ensure as widespread support as possible.

Involving Amsterdam executive Lodewijk Asscher (not yet confirmed) is also a good strategic move, the VK says. ‘He dared to tackle taboo subjects in Amsterdam, such as the red light district and the problems with immigrants. His nomination strengthens the impression that the new cabinet wants to make a determined start.

Source: DutchNews October 28, 2012

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