Dutch government unravels over Brussels budget rules
By Philip Ebels
Talks on Brussels-based budget cuts have collapsed in the Netherlands, creating the likelihood of snap elections after the summer recess.
The development came on Saturday (21 April) - after more than seven weeks of fierce behind-the-scenes negotiations - when the eurosceptic PVV party, led by Geert Wilders, withdrew its support for the austerity measures and for the minority government itself.
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"We will not accept to have our people bleed at the hands of bureaucrats in Brussels," he told reporters in The Hague.
The Hague is trying to find an extra €10 billion in savings after disappointing forecasts last month showed that it would breach the eurozone's 3 percent deficit rule in 2013.
For his part, Mark Rutte, the liberal Prime Minister, accused Wilders of irresponsibility. "There was a lack of political will on the part of the PVV," he said.
Maxime Verhagen, the leader of the Christian Democrats, a coalition partner, said: "The hope for a strong response to the crisis has been drilled into the ground by Wilders."
What happens next remains uncertain, but Rutte is widely expected to hand in his resignation after the weekend.
"New elections are the logical next step," he noted. The earliest possible timing would be late September or early October.
Rutte added that he will try to find a majority in parliament for next year's budget despite the setback. The draft spending plan is due to be sent to the European Commission for evaluation at the end of April.
Opposition groups have indicated they might do a deal, but on their own terms.
"It is the chamber that will take the initiative," said Diederik Samsom, the leader of the social democrats, the biggest opposition party.
If the elections do go ahead, Wilders has indicated that he will make the EU his main target. "Our campaign will be against Brussels, against the euro, and against 3 percent," he said.