“Once more into the breach, my friends!” D66 delivers on its Environmental, Education and Feminist Social-Liberal Tradition in the New Dutch Coalition

Part 1 (of 2): The coalition agreement: many D66 issues, initiatives

Due to the fragmented party-political parliament which resulted from the Dutch general elections this spring, forming a coalition was always going to be a difficult process. Setting aside populist protest parties like Geert Wilders’ PVV, people expected the political center (from center-left to center-right) to play an active role in building a workable coalition. The only exception was about the PvdA (Dutch Labour party): because they lost disastrously after having been the junior party in a two-party government (led by Mark Rutte, leader of the VVD, and “Green-Right” ally of Cameron), people respected it when the new PvdA leader Asscher said they would go into opposition to rebuild their party and electoral base.

D66, the social-liberal party that put environmental politics on the Dutch political agenda in the early 1970’s (around the 1972 report “The Limits to Growth” by the “Club of Rome”) was glad that the “GreenLeft” party, which shares our environmental, European and Human Rights priorities, was willing to join us in coalition talks with two center-right parties: the VVD of Rutte (British equivalent: “National Liberals”) and the Christian-Democrats, CDA. But this attempt foundered on unwillingness by GreenLeft to countenance EU agreements with North African countries about hosting big migrant reception centers, like the 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey initiated by the prime ministers Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte (see the paragraph about that here.

Coalition talks resumed, this time between VVD, CDA, D66 and the “ChristenUnie”, a curious mix between the Ulster Unionists (on medical-ethical and family issues, and the EU) and green, refugee-friendly parties. After an initial D66-ChristenUnie clash about medical-ethical issues like abortion and euthanasia, a modus vivendi was found; but building a coalition between such heterogeneous parties took negotiations which lasted some months.

Because D66 was the only fully pro-European party, with a liberal ethical agenda and a host of reforming proposals, people expected a mainly “status quo” coalition agreement. People and the media were pleasantly surprised when it turned out that the actual agreement in October had ambitious goals: fulfilling the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; strengthening NATO defense through intensified bi- and multilateral co-operation; including the full LGBTI agreement between progressive Dutch parties around the 2017 elections; and a record investment in Education (an old D66 hobbyhorse), Dutch lessons from day 1 for asylum seekers (idem) and technological innovation (idem). Add to that local experiments with not only legally selling, but also legally planting and controlling cannabis (pushing back criminal involvement and improving public health issues, and added tax income) and extended partners (fathers!) furlough after a baby is born, and more individual control over your pension, and you understand our D66 pride.

Coming in the second part of this Dutch coalition summary: the headline-grabbing number and quality of the D66 women ministers….

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Oct '17 - 10:45pm

    We need the Dutch and European politics or the American, what is not right is this mess of neither and either.

    A multi party system with electoral reform, pr etc.

    A twp party system with two huge broad groupings.

    Room for many parties and coalitions of those.

    Or for two coalition parties.

    The nonsense of a far left that is near government, with a now defunct centrist new Labour , and us liberal , social democrat , centre left, in the wilderness.

    The trouble with the EU is we did harmonise some things too much , but not election systems and healthcare ones, too, which most countries beyond Dover do better on !

  • Richard Easter 27th Oct '17 - 8:36am

    EU wide healthcare (especially if an insurance / privatised model), would be as popular with the British electorate as an EU army provided by G4S…

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