Dutch opposition hammers PM on Greece

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Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been under fire in parliament since his return from holidays last Friday. The opposition are using his misleading figures on the bail-out for Greece - presented after a meeting of European leaders on the euro crisis in July – to make it clear to the PM that if he wants their needed support on this question, then he’ll have to work for it.

Mr Rutte listened to a two-hour barrage of questions from MPs on Monday but stuck to his guns – his explanation is that his figure of 109 billion referred to the situation up until 2014, while his European counterparts were using 2020 as the cut-off.

“My sum wasn’t particularly clever, as it only showed part of the story,” Mr Rutte said. The PM did concede his communication on the matter wasn’t strong, which was seen by the opposition as a much-awaited apology. “Better late than never, pity it took so long,” replied Green Left MP Ineke van Gent.

Softening the blow for PVV The Dutch Labour Party suggested that Mr Rutte’s minority coalition government deliberately misled the house, in order to appease Geert Wilder’s Freedom Party PVV, a government partner which supports the coalition in parliament. The far-right PVV is against giving any form of financial support to Greece.

The prime minister dismissed the PvdA’s accusation. “This has nothing to do with the PVV, really it doesn’t. We’ve nothing to gain from the PVV on this matter.” Geert Wilder’s party has decided to vote against the government on the bail-out, so Mr Rutte cannot pass the aid package without the opposition’s support.

If you can’t convince, confuse The opposition is also calling for more clarity on the ratio of financial support from the public and from the private sector. Wouter Koolmees of democrat party D66 said Mr Rutte gave the impression at the July press conference that the private sector would contribute almost 50 percent towards the bail-out.

Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager then used some complex mathematical formulae to show that the impression was an accurate one. But the opposition wasn’t buying it. Labour MP Ronald Plasterk, who upholds the claim that Mr Rutte’s figures in July were downright inaccurate, concluded “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”

Won’t go away Mr Rutte’s answers remained vague regarding the sources of the private sector contribution. He did say he wants a tough regime of automatic sanctions for countries which don’t uphold European financial rules. He declined to say whether this would mean forcing recalcitrant countries out of the eurozone.

The prime minister feels he has said all he has to say on the matter. But the opposition thinks otherwise. This morning, they submitted a letter to parliament calling for further explanation. Dutch newspaper called the opposition’s song and dance about Mr Rutte’s shady figures on the bail-out “ritualistic”, because, in the end of the day, Labour and D66 are in favour of supporting Greece and the eurozone. The Socialist Party, like the PVV, will vote against the aid package.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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