Dutch coalition negotiators nearing agreement

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Rightwing coalition negotiators in the Netherlands have resumed their talks in what observers say will be a decisive week. According to unnamed sources in The Hague, free-market liberal VVD, Christian Democrat CDA and anti-immigration Freedom Party are close to agreement.

They are working towards a minority government of VVD and CDA, which with support of Freedom Party MPs will have a slender one-seat majority in the Lower House. Geert Wilders' Freedom Party will remain outside the cabinet. The government programme is expected to be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest, and is likely to be dominated by sharp financial cuts, needed to re-balance the national budget after the economic crisis.

The government's Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis CPB has calculated the effects of the measures proposed by the rightwing threesome, and the smiles on the faces of Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen and VVD leader Mark Rutte led to speculations that their proposals got the thumbs-up from the CPB. The bureau's judgements have not been made public.

Some economic bones of contention are still on the negotiating table. Parties will have to find common ground on raising the retirement age, reducing the duration of unemployment benefits and simplifying the system of grants and benefits. It is thought unlikely, however, that these points will derail the coalition talks.



© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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