New Dutch government will aim to 'opt out' of EU asylum rules

new dutch government will aim to 'opt out' of eu asylum rules

FILE PHOTO: Dutch far-right politician and leader of the PVV party Geert Wilders attends a meeting of Dutch parties' lead candidates, for the first time after elections, in which far-right politician Geert Wilders booked major gains, to begin coalition talks in The Hague, Netherlands, November 24, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The incoming Dutch government led by nationalist Geert Wilders' PVV party will aim to pursue its curbs on immigration by opting out of European Union migration rules, setting up a clash with Brussels before it has even taken office.

Wilders won an election nearly six months ago and reached a deal on Wednesday to form a coalition with three right-wing partners. He has not yet proposed his choice for prime minister, but has ruled himself out.

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.

Wilders said the plan would make the Netherlands less attractive for asylum seekers, adding that "people in Africa and the Middle East will start thinking they might be better off elsewhere".

The Netherlands would join Hungary and Poland's previous nationalist government in challenging EU migration policy. Brussels is likely to resist, as EU countries have already agreed on their migration pact and opt outs are usually discussed in the negotiating phase.

"We have a new pact on migration and asylum, which has been voted upon and confirmed and therefore has to be applied," EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said at a press briefing in Brussels.

"This legislation will be applied and the commission will play its role in making sure it is."

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

Workers from outside the EU who do not have specific knowledge or expertise would need a work permit and recruiting agencies will face stricter regulation. The 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 would hamper hiring by tech firms.

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.

The new government also plans 14 billion euros ($15.22 billion) 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 Netherlands 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.

PRIME MINISTER ROLE

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 that will have 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.

Wilders, known for his outspoken views on Islam, vowed in March to forego the prime minister's role in order to get his prospective government partners to the negotiating table. He has not yet announced who he will put forward for the top job.

($1 = 0.9201 euros)

(Reporting by Bart Meijer, Toby Sterling and Anthony DeutschEditing by Sonali Paul, Ros Russell and Frances Kerry)

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