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Coalition talks get down to policy, negotiators have eight weeks
Caroline van der Plas and Geert Wilders during the debate. Photo: Koen van Weel ANP

The two men appointed to oversee the next round of coalition talks in the Netherlands have been given eight weeks maximum to complete their task. 

CDA stalwart Richard van Zwol, who chaired a commission warning in January that migration needs curbing, and Elbert Dijkgraaf, a professor of economics who sat in parliament for the orthodox Christian party SGP until 2018, have been told to report back to parliament by mid May. 

“We have a lot of work to do in a short space of time,” the duo told reporters on Wednesday afternoon, after MPs ended their debate on the cabinet formation process so far. 

The two are meeting their predecessor Kim Putters on Thursday morning and will meet the four party leaders later in the day to discuss the planning. “We have to look at how we can work as effectively as possible and what issues we should start with,” they said. 

Far right leader Geert Wilders told parliament during the debate he and the other three party leaders – Dilan Yesilgöz of the VVD, Pieter Omtzigt of NSC and the BBB’s Caroline van der Plas – had made the “greatest political sacrifice” by agreeing to sit in parliament rather than the cabinet table.

But he denied that the parties had chosen an “extra-parliamentary” format in order to prevent him becoming prime minister. “It’s not the case that everyone round the table felt I shouldn’t be prime minister,” he said.

Wilders also said the four leaders faced a “very tough” round of negotiations to ensure that “the outcome in the outline agreement is acceptable to our voters.”

Putters recommended a cabinet with an even split of ministers appointed from within the four parties and others drawn from outside, including members of other parties in parliament. He also said a less detailed agreement between the four parties would reduce the chance of the cabinet falling apart over the details.

However, the Volkskrant points out that the trust between the four potential partners is still fragile, despite their attempts at optimism on Wednesday afternoon. “The new negotiators have a tricky task ahead to give shape to the upcoming right-wing cabinet,” the paper said. 

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