After nine months of discussions and negotiations – and a couple of scandals – this week has seen significant progress made in the way of the formation of the Netherlands’ next government.
On Monday, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), D66, Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), and ChristenUnie (CU) finally announced that they had reached an agreement for the next coalition – dubbed Rutte IV in recognition of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s fourth term – and on Wednesday the parties presented their plan for the next four years.
VVD, D66, CDA and CU present coalition agreement
The motto of the 50-page document is “Looking after each other and looking ahead to the future.” Here are the main points in the parties’ coalition agreement.
The coalition wants to continue to support the construction of more affordable housing, and has abolished the controversial landlord levy and plans to make new “performance binding agreements” with housing associations in order to do so. The coalition will also abolish the policy that allows for parents to make large tax-free donations to help their children buy a house.
The parties plan to build up to 100.000 new homes per year, and a new Minister for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment will be appointed to oversee this. The coalition also hopes to further promote and accelerate the proper insulation of homes across the country through a National Insulation Programme, providing financial support for low- and middle-income households.
Employment and income
One of the plans that leaked before the agreement was presented this week was the plan to make childcare in the Netherlands free or significantly cheaper for parents. The details reveal that working parents will now be eligible to receive a childcare allowance that covered up to 95 percent of their childcare costs, with the aim to increase this to 100 percent in the future.
Over the coming years, the cabinet will continue to curb healthcare spending by a further 4,5 billion euros. In order to do so effectively, the parties want to negotiate lower prices for new medicines and focus funds on highly complex care / treatments in a selection of locations across the Netherlands.
However, in order to better prepare the Dutch healthcare system for future pandemics, more funding is being made available which will, amongst other things, increase intensive care capacity.
Contraception will be freely available to certain vulnerable groups, while the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) and 20-week scan will be made free for all pregnant people.
Finally, while the details are yet to be determined, a sugar tax will be introduced and the VAT on fruit and vegetables will be cut to 0 percent. The existing tax on sugary drinks will be increased, as will the excise tax on tobacco products.
As had been leaked before the agreement presentation on Wednesday, the next coalition wants to close the pay gap between primary and secondary education, setting aside 800 million euros each year in order to increase the salaries of primary teachers. The parties also want to decrease the workload of teaching staff by making funds available for schools to hire more teachers or create smaller classes.
The cabinet will also abolish the student loan system, putting aside one billion euros in order to provide compensation or a discount on their debt for the thousands of students who have accrued debt under the current system.
Travel and transportation
The airline ticket tax that was introduced in 2021 will be increased, and the coalition aims to introduce what it calls road pricing – a new tax based on a policy of “pay for what you use” – in 2030.
1.25 billion euros will be made available for road maintenance and management, and the new Lelylijn – a highspeed connection between Groningen and Lelystad – will be built. The coalition also wants to tackle some of the issues in and around Schiphol Airport (i.e. nitrogen pollution, noise pollution), and will finally take steps towards potentially opening Lelystad Airport.
Environment and climate
The next government is planning huge investments into the fight against climate change, announcing a 35 billion-euro fund to help cover the country’s transition to climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and reduce CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030. The next cabinet is also looking to construct two new nuclear power plants.
Natural gas extraction in Groningen is also due to be phased out as soon as possible, and the next government doesn’t want any further extractions to take place in the Wadden Sea, but has said the North Sea remains a potential option.
In addition to this, a 25 billion-euro fund will be made available until 2035 in order to aid the farming industry in its efforts to transition to circular agriculture.
The agreement outlines that 10.7 billion euros will be made available over the next four years for the maintenance and purchasing of defence equipment, and an additional three billion euros will be put aside for the armed forces.
A 170 million-euro investment has been announced for the cultural sector in order to enable growth, innovation, and recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. The next government will also help to fund the development of a National History Museum and a Slavery Museum.
Privacy and politics
The agreement states that facial recognition will not be used in the Netherlands without strict legal limits and control, and the coalition wants to tackle the power of large tech companies across Europe in order to improve the privacy of EU citizens.
Lastly, the parties want to ensure members of the public are able to come into personal contact with the Dutch government, protecting the power of Dutch citizens. The agreement states: “We work towards a government that is reliable, subservient, close and just.” Following the fallout from the childcare benefit scandal (toeslagenaffaire) the parties also want to make sure “people who inadvertently make a mistake are [not] immediately labelled as fraudsters.”
Next cabinet to be sworn in in the new year
The agreement was presented to the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) on Wednesday afternoon, where MPs were critical to the coalition’s plans. Geert Wilders said more should be invested in healthcare and tackling immigration instead of climate change. Jesse Klaver and Lilian Marijnissen both said the new agreement included exactly the same ideas and policies as the last one. “It’s the same parties, the same ideas and the same people,” Marijnissen said.
Before the House breaks for the Christmas holidays on Friday, politicians will come together again on Thursday to debate the final agreement. Rutte has already said that all the ministerial positions have been filled, and that the new cabinet will be sworn in in the second week of January.