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Dutch coalition agreement - but what's in it for Wilders?
Published on:Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 17:52
The Qur'an will not be banned, headscarves will not be taxed, and Muslims will not be deported en masse. Geert Wilders did not get everything he wanted in the coalition agreement between the conservative VVD and the Christian Democrats, propped up by his own Freedom Party (PVV).
So what did Mr Wilders get in return for supporting this minority cabinet? These are the main PVV points:
- There will be a complete ban on burqas, and police and justice employees will not be allowed to wear headscarves;
- Conditional passports for new immigrants - to be withdrawn if they commit crimes in the first five years;
- The pension age will only be raised to 66 not 67;
- An extra 2,500 police officers;
- Animal police will be introduced. 500 officers will look after the welfare of animals in the Netherlands;
- The duration of unemployment benefit payments will not be reduced;
- Maximum speed on the motorway will be increased to 130 kilometres per hour;
- The current smoking ban will be lifted for small cafés
How will it work? First of all, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party will not be part of the new cabinet, and so will not provide any ministers. The twelve ministers (down from the current 16) will be split evenly between the VVD and the CDA, and VVD leader Mark Rutte says the cabinet should be called Rutte-Verhagen I. The Freedom Party, for its part, will support the government in parliament.
This is a unique construction, with no precedent in Dutch politics. To achieve a stable minority government, the three parties have signed two different governing accords. One encompasses what all three parties have agreed to, and the other details what the VVD and CDA have agreed. Geert Wilders will not sign the second accord. However, he has agreed not to bring the government down over policies laid out in the agreement between the VVD and CDA.
Freedom Party input
What Wilders also gets, in addition to the points above, is stricter immigration and integration measures. Some measures, including the conditional passport for new citizens, may violate existing EU regulations. The agreement explicitly states it will try to find as much leeway as possible within existing treaties governing immigration and integration, and if need be, renegotiate the treaties. At the same time, the new cabinet will lobby to change EU guidelines.
The agreement calls for a significant reduction in immigration.
A new Minister of Security will also oversee tougher law and order policies. The new cabinet will thus have a decidedly Freedom Party 'feel' in these areas.
Input from the left
But while the Freedom Party is politically on the right when it comes to immigration, its policies towards health care, care for the elderly and some social services are more at home on the left.
Here, Wilders has managed to minimise cuts in a number of areas. The VVD and CDA have agreed that the retirement age will only be raised to 66 instead of 67. Wilders wanted it to stay at 65. There will be investment in care for the elderly and unemployment benefits will not be further limited.
The Freedom Party also promotes animal rights. For the first time, this country will have a special police force just to protect animals. A number of other policies to combat cruelty to animals are part of the agreement.
There are many other measures the Freedom Party is pleased with. These include lifting the smoking ban for small cafés, building new roads, cutting the development aid budget and scaling back the budget for public broadcasting.
The cabinet is not a done deal - yet. The Christian Democrat members still have to approve the coalition agreement, which they're expected to do at a tense and crowded congress on Saturday. If the members vote yes, then the three parliamentary caucuses will approve the accord early next week. Finally, Queen Beatrix will ask Mark Rutte to form his new government, after which he will appoint his ministers. And during the week of 11 October, the new cabinet will pose for the traditional photograph with the queen, and finally be able to get to work.