New Dutch PM promises immigration cut
The new Dutch Prime Minister, conservative liberal leader Mark Rutte, promised Thursday to cut immigration after the investiture of his rightist cabinet backed by anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders.
"We cannot continue to allow so many to people without prospects to come to the Netherlands," Rutte told journalists hours after his cabinet was sworn in by Queen Beatrix in a closed ceremony at her working palace in The Hague.
"The Netherlands will always be open for asylum-seekers ... but we cannot continue to allow such large numbers of immigrants."
Rutte, a 43-year-old former human resources manager at multi-national Unilever, is the first prime minister from a Dutch liberal party, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), since 1918.
His coalition of VVD and Christian Democratic Action (CDA) commands only 52 seats out of 150 in the Dutch lower house of parliament, but has made a deal with Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) for the support of its 24 MPs to pass policy through parliament.
The PVV, which remains outside the government, will get a say in policy formulation in return.
Wilders, who campaigns for an end to Muslim immigration, a ban on new mosques and a head scarf tax, went on trial in Amsterdam last Monday on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.
Announcing his cooperation pact with Rutte's government this month, Wilders, 47, said the burqa would be banned and immigration halved.
Rutte said Thursday his government's priority, "besides ensuring that the Netherlands comes through the (economic) crisis stronger", would be to meet election promises on burning issues like immigration.
He said his coalition was "happy" with the support of the PVV, but stressed that "we are at odds with each other" over Islam.
"For the CDA and VVD, Islam is a religion and for the PVV a political ideology. That is a fundamental difference," Rutte said after receiving the cabinet chairman's gavel from outgoing premier Jan Peter Balkenende.
Some political analysts believe the new coalition is too unstable to last long.
The last government, Balkenende's fourth CDA-led coalition, fell in February in a dispute over continued military support to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Rutte's VVD narrowly won June 9 general elections with 31 seats in parliament, while Wilders' PVV was the biggest climber, nearly tripling its support from nine seats previously.
The CDA, which has been in nearly all governments since World War II, saw its presence dwindle from 41 seats.
The new government comprises six ministers each from the VVD and CDA.
The VVD-CDA coalition agreement promises to cut government spending by 18 billion euros by 2015. The country saw its budget surplus turn into a worrying deficit amid the global crisis.
The longest chapter of the governing accord -- seven of its 46 pages -- is devoted to immigration, proposing stricter conditions for asylum and making it harder for partners and children of immigrant workers to enter the Netherlands.
© 2010 AFP