VVD Open to Alternative Savings, PvdA under Fire
THE HAGUE, 26/09/13 - The conservatives (VVD) have held out a hand to the opposition. But Labour (PvdA) on Wednesday was much less open to changes in the cabinet’s budget for 2014.
VVD parliamentary leader Halbe Zijlstra said he was prepared to talk to the opposition to arrive at agreements. He expressed optimism on talks with centre-left D66 and the Christian democrats (CDA). “In my view, we should be able to achieve a result.”
The VVD-PvdA cabinet is dependent on the opposition to achieve majority support in the Upper House. The opposition wants less tax increases than the coalition proposed in the budget for 2014 presented last week.
Most parties also want to allow the budget deficit to run up higher than 3.3 percent next year. VVD and PvdA however repeated Wednesday that they are sticking to 6 billion euros in savings.
It is possible to talk about how these savings can be achieved, said Zijlstra. But PvdA leader Diederik Samsom showed unwillingness to move to such an extent that CDA leader Sybrand Buma told him: "The heck with you!"
Zijlstra expressed criticism of two proposals from the cabinet budget. He said he was against the formation of a National Investment Bank. “If it is only a vehicle, fine. But we do not want any institution that will itself borrow on the capital market, or into which taxpayers money goes.”
Zijlstra also questioned whether the new National Mortgage Institution (NHI), planned in order to deploy more pension money to finance mortgages, is a good measure. He first wants a thorough analysis of the problems on the housing market and the high level of private mortgage debt.
The debate began with a fireworks display from Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders. He immediately put forward a motion calling on the cabinet to resign. The Socialist Party (SP) and Party for Animals (PvdD) supported the PVV. The party for the elderly, 50Plus, also considers that the government should resign, but did not support the motion because it considered that the debate must first take place.
D66 leader Pechtold accused Wilders of fascism for wanting to work with, what he called, nationalists and anti-Semitic parties in Europe and because at a PVV protest against the cabinet, five so-called Prince’s Flags were to be seen this weekend. The orange, white and blue Prince’s Flag was carried by the followers of William of Orange in the battle against the Spanish in the Eighty Years War. At the end of the 1930s, the flag was taken over as a nationalist symbol by the Nazi party, the NSB.
Wilders said it was below him to respond to efforts to push him into the extreme right corner. He said only that “it goes without saying that the PVV has nothing to do with anti-Semitism or extremism.”
Wilders, who is actually known as pro-Israeli, called Pechtold “a pathetic, miserable man.” When ChristenUnie’s leader Arie Slob asked him to express himself more “respectfully,” he was told by Wilders that he was “just as miserable.”
The government is taking its turn on Thursday. Premier Mark Rutte will take the whole day to respond to proposals from the opposition.