THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch talks on forming a four-party government coalition collapsed Monday over differences on migration policy.
Migration policy was one of the most divisive issues in the March parliamentary vote, as the Netherlands — along with other wealthy Western European nations — grappled with how best to cope with the stream of migrants fleeing war and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East.
The behind-closed-doors negotiations were between election winner the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the Christian Democrats, the centrist D66 party and pro-environment Green Left party.
“The four parties in the end could not bridge the differences on migration policy,” Rutte told reporters in The Hague
“We all tried to bring together an almost impossible combination,” said Green Left leader Jesse Klaver. “Today, it turned out that the differences were too great.”
Rutte’s VVD and the Christian Democrats both advocated a tough migration policy in the latest election campaign while the Green Left wanted a more generous approach toward people fleeing war and repression.
In a tweet, Geert Wilders, the right-wing, anti-Islam, anti-immigration populist whose party is the second largest in the Dutch Parliament’s lower house, called the collapse “very good news.” He said his Party for Freedom is “fully available” to join any future coalition-building talks.
However, Rutte and other mainstream party leaders have repeatedly said they will not work with Wilders.
Rutte will now have to start the hunt for new possible coalition partners.
He could replace the Green Left party at the negotiating table with the small, faith-based party Christian Union. A coalition of Rutte’s VVD, the Christian Democrats, D66 and the Christian Union would have a one-seat majority with 76 seats in the 150-seat lower house.
Dutch lawmakers will likely debate about the government formation process before a new round of talks is scheduled.