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Blueprint for new Dutch coalition goes public after being left on train.

A confidential blueprint for a new coalition agreement has gone public in the Netherlands after being left on the seat of a train.

The blueprint was drawn up by the Liberal party (VVD) of acting prime minister Mark Rutte and its traditional centre-right allies the Christian Democrats.

Mr Rutte’s four-party coalition collapsed last January after a scandal over thousands of parents wrongly accused of fraudulently claiming child benefit payments. Talks since the subsequent March election have failed to produce a new agreement.

Dutch politician Mark Rutte. Photograph: Bart Maat/EPA

Dutch politician Mark Rutte. Photograph: Bart Maat/EPA

The briefing was drawn up in September when the talks’ facilitator, Johan Remkes – a former deputy prime minister – was exploring the possibility of a minority coalition government between the Liberals and the Christian Democrats.

Since then, the talks have been joined by other leaders, and on Wednesday Gert-Jan Segars, the leader of Christian Union, the junior partner in the outgoing government, admitted he had been the one who left the document on the train to the Hague.

“I’m human and I’ve done something really stupid,” he tweeted. “Sorry.”

Several of the blueprint’s proposals overlap with an outline written during the summer by Mr Rutte and Sigrid Kaag, the leader of the D66 party that replaced the Christian Democrats as the second largest after the election.

Environmental plans

With the talks now going on for 245 days and the public wondering what the parties are thinking about key issues, this document unintentionally reveals some of the elements likely to end of up in a new programme for government.

Controversial with farmers but popular with environmentalists will be a €19 billion fund to cut nitrogen dioxide emissions using a number of strategies including buying out the biggest agricultural polluters.

There would also be a “green industry” programme aimed at agreeing binding reductions with the country’s 20 biggest industrial polluters.

A new ministry would focus on the housing shortage, with a budget for a million additional homes by 2030 and the power to free up development land.

An increase in the minimum wage is proposed, along with the introduction of incapacity insurance for the self-employed.

Reforms to the education system are championed by D66, and here the proposals include free or subsidised nursery care, a longer school day and more support with school work at home.

Leadership question

“The big unknown,” says Claes de Vreese, politics professor at Amsterdam University, remains who will lead a new coalition.

“After 11 years, can Rutte become a new leader? Certainly, he’s as flexible as a chameleon, but is that enough?”

The lack of a fully functioning government has not hurt the economy. It has rebounded strongly from Covid-19, with one of the strongest growth rates in Europe. Unemployment on Thursday was back to 2.9 per cent, compared with 4.6 per cent in August 2020.

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