New Dutch government to look for ‘opt out’ of EU asylum rules

By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The incoming Dutch government led by nationalist Geert Wilders’ PVV party will look to opt out of European Union migration rules, setting up a clash with Brussels even before it has taken office.

Wilders on Wednesday reached a deal to form a coalition with three right-wing partners, almost six months after a major election victory. He has ruled himself out of the top job, but has not yet proposed his choice for prime minister.

In its government plan published early on Thursday, the four-party coalition says it will aim for the “strictest-ever asylum regime” with stronger border controls and harsher rules for asylum seekers who arrive in the Netherlands.

“An opt out clause for European asylum and migration policies will be submitted as soon as possible to the European Commission,” the coalition says in its pact.

“This will definitely make the Netherlands less attractive for asylum seekers. People in Africa and the Middle East will start thinking they might be better off elsewhere,” Wilders said after the plans were presented.

The Netherlands would join Hungary and Poland’s former nationalist government in challenging EU migration policy. The plans will likely be met with pushback from Brussels, as EU countries have already agreed on their migration pact and opt outs are usually discussed in the negotiating phase.

The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Labour migration would also be curbed, and admittance of foreign students to Dutch universities will become stricter, the coalition parties said.

Workers from outside the EU who do not have specific knowledge or expertise would need a working permit and recruiting agencies will face stricter regulation. The Dutch coalition says it would also strive to limit free movement for people from countries joining the EU in the future.

Tech industry association FME, representing firms including semiconductor industry powerhouse ASML, said it was concerned such measures will make it difficult for tech firms to hire workers they need.

On climate change, the coalition said it would stick to internationally agreed goals, but would not add any national restrictions on planet-warming emissions.

Offshore gas production in the North Sea would be increased, while the government would continue with plans to build four nuclear reactors in the coming decade.

Plans will be financed with 14 billion euros in spending cuts through 2028, including cuts of 2.5 billions euros to development aid, a billion euros on government salaries and 100 million euros on the public broadcaster’s budget.

The new government would keep up political and military support to Ukraine and will make it legally binding to spend at least 2% of Dutch gross domestic product on defence, in line with NATO agreements, it said.


The deal brings together Wilders’ PVV with outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right VVD, the new NSC party and farmers’ protest party BBB in a coalition with a strong majority of 88 seats in the 150-seat Lower House.

With the broad agreement reached, an independent intermediary will now be tasked with forming the cabinet of ministers, a process that is expected to take at least another month.

It is still unclear who will become Prime Minister as Wilders, known for his outspoken views on Islam, in March vowed to forego the role in order to get his prospective government partners to the negotiating table.

Wilders has not announced yet who he will put forward for the top job.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer, Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Sonali Paul and Ros Russell)


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