Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years

  • It is not unlikely that outgoing finance minister Dijsselbloem will present a budget, even though he will not be carrying it out (Photo: Ministerie van Financiën Nederland / Valerie Kuypers)

The four parties negotiating a coalition deal in the Netherlands will break a record on Friday (21 July), the 128th day since the Dutch elections.

It will be the longest period needed for a coalition deal to be concluded since the 1970s, when the longest coalition talks took 208 days.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Dutch outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte, a Liberal, hopes to secure a third term. "That hope has not reduced, it may have been increased a little bit,” said Rutte.

The previous post-1970s record had also been set by Rutte. His first centre-right coalition was established in 127 days, while his second was formed in just 54 days.

The current record is held by the talks leading to the 1977-1981 coalition government, led by prime minister Dries van Agt, a centre-right Christian Democrat. The so-called formation period between elections and the establishment of the government took 208 days, the longest in modern Dutch history.

The second-longest formation period was 163 days, and resulted in the 1973-1977 government with centre-left Joop den Uyl at the helm of one of the most left-wing coalitions the country has ever seen.

Fragmented parliament

The reason why the formation is taking so long this time, is that the elections in March resulted in a very fragmented parliament.

Four parties are needed for a majority.

The parties participating in the talks are: Rutte's Liberals, the centre-right Christian Democrats, the centrist liberal-democrats D66, and the ChristianUnion, an orthodox christian party with progressive views on migration and climate change, but conservative views on medical-ethical issues.

Two previous attempts at a coalition with a left-wing green party, instead of ChristianUnion, failed.

D66 and the ChristianUnion hold particularly different views on areas such as euthanasia, but there are also varying views on the EU.

D66 is proudly pro-EU, whereas ChristianUnion is mildly eurosceptic.

The Liberals and Christian Democrats are positioned somewhere in-between, with the Christian Democrat's leader, Sybrand Buma, taking some surprisingly eurocritical positions in the election campaign.

According to former finance minister Gerrit Zalm, who is mediating the talks, there is good reason to be optimistic, but he also stressed at a press conference on Wednesday that the negotiators are not there yet.

They will now take a break until 9 August. Reporters for daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad noted on Wednesday that, if there was no genuine deal in sight, the holiday break would have been the moment to announce that talks had collapsed.

Dijsselbloem

Meanwhile, Rutte's previous coalition is continuing to run the country as a caretaker government.

That also means that, for the time being, finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a centre-left politician whose party will not return in government, continues to chair Eurogroup meetings in Brussels.

It is also not beyond the realm of possibilities that Dijsselbloem will be presenting the annual budget on 19 September.

That budget can be amended by parliament, but as long as no new finance minister is in place, it will be up to Dijsselbloem to prepare the draft.

But since the budget needs input from all ministers, including the centre-left ones on their way out, a clash in the caretaker government is not impossible.

The centre-left Labour party's leader and caretaker deputy prime minister, Lodewijk Asscher, has been profiling himself as an opposition figure.

Fortunately for the country, the economy is in a good state.

On Thursday (20 July), Statistics Netherlands announced that unemployment has dropped to 4.9 percent of the labour force, the first time the figure has been under 5 percent since 2011.

The statistics bureau's consumer confidence indicator went up to 25 points, “significantly above its long-term average over the past two decades”.

Consumer spending was 2 percent higher in May 2017 compared to May 2016.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Latest News

  1. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  2. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  3. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border
  4. MEPs rally ahead of vote for gig-economy workers' rights
  5. Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think
  6. Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating
  7. Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?
  8. EU lobby register still riddled with errors

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us