After hours of discussions in a crisis-like atmosphere, the Cabinet has not yet reached an agreement on a new policy regarding the approach to migration and a package of measures to better handle the influx of asylum seekers. Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the leader of the VVD, would not elaborate on details about the Cabinet meeting, and he would not discuss possible steps taken on Thursday evening. D66 leader Sigrid Kaag said the meeting late on Thursday, which spilled into the early hours on Friday, consisted of “good talks” which have not yet led to a breakthrough.
“We are in a process of trying to reach agreements and this is by definition a step,” Rutte said afterwards. When asked if he is optimistic, he replied that he preferred not to discuss how he feels about the situation so it does not turn a political discussion into the commentary for sports match.
The coalition parties VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie will continue their talks on Friday after the weekly Council of Ministers meeting, which will again include an important part of the Cabinet. The VVD wants a deal to be in place by then. During an earlier meeting on Wednesday evening, he sharpened the negotiations by demanding that there be a quota on the number of family members that may bring war refugees to the Netherlands.
Sources told broadcaster NOS that Rutte apologized to his colleagues for his handling of that meeting. Rutte would not comment about reports that he increased his demands regarding limitations to the number of asylum seekers and refugees permitted to live in the Netherlands, and he would not say if it was worth a major rift within the Cabinet that could lead to its collapse. “These questions fit into a context of reporting over the past few days on which I will not comment further.”
Rutte would not say anything about the atmosphere between the four coalition parties after the meeting. “In any case, we will talk again tomorrow.” He does not know if this will lead to a deal. “We will see and if not, then we will of course look further.”
He said he realizes that he has not met the deadline of his own VVD party to have a package of measures on the table before the summer recess. The Tweede Kamer will go into recess on Thursday evening. “We’re working hard.” Whether the asylum consultations may continue next week: we will “look step by step, and see what the next step is step by step.”
Deputy Prime Minister Carola Schouten of the ChristenUnie also spoke of substantive discussions, but did not want to say whether she was more positive than on Wednesday evening. “We are still talking, but I can’t say it’s easy.”
CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra also did not want to say much about the conversation afterwards. It is not wise to “always give the intermediate score,” he said. He did hint, however, that some progress has been made. “We see reason to resume the conversation tomorrow.”
CDA Housing Minister Hugo de Jonge was more hopeful after the meeting than a day earlier. “I think we’ve taken steps.” In his own words, he “really has the feeling that it should be possible” to reach a solution. But the necessary work still needs to be done for this on Friday after the Council of Ministers. “We’re certainly not done yet.”
State Secretary Eric van der Burg for asylum policy said that he is “now going to put something on paper.” According to him, the fact that the talks are still continuing means “that we will not stop now”, the VVD minister said after the more than five-hour consultation.
Rutte will be at a NATO summit in Lithuania next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Reporting by ANP