Dutch government collapses over immigration policy dispute

(CNN) — The Dutch government has collapsed after failing to reach an agreement to curb immigration.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday his government would resign from the King of the Netherlands, prompting new elections in the fall.

Rutte, who has been in power since 2010 and is Europe’s second-longest serving leader, said disputes over measures to restrict immigration had led to the fracture of his four-party coalition government.

“It’s no secret that the coalition partners have different views on immigration policy,” Rutte said at a Friday night press conference, saying “these differences have become insurmountable. “.

King Willem-Alexander returned early from vacation to meet Rutte this Saturday, when the Prime Minister will formally tender his resignation.

The decision was triggered by differences between Rutte’s conservative VVD party and its coalition counterparts over measures to limit the flow of asylum seekers into the country.

Rutte said the coalition had “lost its political base” after negotiations failed. “It is extremely unfortunate and at the same time a political reality that we cannot avoid,” he said.
In addition to the VVD, the current coalition government is made up of the liberal D66 party, the centrist Christian Union and the more socially conservative Christian Democratic Appeal.

The VVD has proposed limiting entry to children of war refugees already in the country and making families wait at least two years before they can join them.

Two of the VVD’s coalition parties, Christian Union and D66, refused to back the restrictions, causing the split.

“In the Netherlands, we have a tradition of overcoming differences. We are a country of minorities. We take ourselves into account. This is the only way to find compatible solutions. That’s why we have reached agreements with four parties,” Dutch Finance Minister and DD6 party leader Sigrid Kaag said on Friday.

“After long and intense discussions, the cooperation within the coalition has come to an end today. D66 approached the discussions constructively. The negotiations were difficult. We have always sought the right tone, attitude and content. Unfortunately, the differences turned out to be irreconcilable.”

The number of asylum applications received by the Netherlands rose from 36,620 in 2021 to 47,991 last year, with most applicants coming from Syria, according to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Until May this year, the country had received 16,097 applications.

The government estimates that applications could exceed 70,000 by the end of 2023.

Wopke Hoekstra, Dutch foreign minister and head of the Christian Democrat campaign, which backed Rutte’s policies, said the Netherlands needed to “control immigration”.

“The carrying capacity of our small, densely populated country is under pressure. Too often people find themselves competing for housing, health care and education,” Hoekstra said on Friday.

This Monday, there will be a debate in parliament on the fall of the government. Parliament will return from its summer recess for this debate.

Rutte, 56, has led four consecutive governments and is expected to lead the VVD in new elections. By law, elections cannot be held within 90 days of a government resigning, and summer and fall recess are likely to push the date back to November.

With the issue of immigration becoming increasingly important, some Dutch political analysts have speculated that Rutte could take advantage of this issue to strengthen his own electoral position.

“Other coalition parties think Rutte might have had an interest in this,” said Xander van der Wulp, political reporter for CNN affiliate and Dutch national broadcaster NOS. “What do you think, migration is a good topic to talk about now, then start a campaign.”

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