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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Dutch coalition unveils reforms
Jan Peter Balkenende (right) the VVD's Gerrit Zalm (centre), and LPF's Mat Herben (left)
The coalition partners are reviewing a raft of liberal policies
The three parties which have formed a coalition government in the Netherlands have put forward a 45-page blueprint for reform.


A restrictive aliens policy is necessary and illegal immigration should be fought with vigour

Coalition programme
The programme includes radical plans to tighten immigration policy - the legacy of the murdered politician Pim Fortuyn, whose fledgling party took second place in elections in mid-May.

The coalition, headed by the Christian Democrats (CDA) with the free market VVD as its third member proposes:

  • A crackdown on immigration
  • Deploying more police to curb crime
  • Review of euthanasia law
  • Moves to discourage "drug tourism"
  • Shortening hospital waiting lists
  • Improving public transport
  • Decreasing social welfare spending

"A restrictive aliens policy is necessary and illegal immigration should be fought with vigour," the parties said.

There are three key planks:

  • Obliging asylum seekers to pay a nearly 7,000 euro deposit for compulsory Dutch language and citizenship lessons
  • Restrictions on bringing non-Western family members into the country
  • A clamp down on businesses employing illegal immigrants

Critics point out that Dutch asylum procedures are already tough - with one in three applications rejected within 48 hours.

Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn pushed immigration onto the Dutch political agenda

They add that refugees who have fled their homes will not have the money they need to pay for the lessons.

Acting against illegal labour in businesses may also prove controversial among employers in a country which has serious labour shortages in certain industries and - at 2% - very low national unemployment.

But the coalition also hopes to send more Dutch people back to work by tougher examinations of those claiming disability benefit - currently an estimated one in five of the Dutch labour force.

This is part of a more general plan to cut spending on social welfare, and thereby decrease the national debt.

Coffee shop cuts

The liberal drugs policies the Netherlands is well-known for are also in for a shake-up.

Plans include:

  • Moving cannabis cafes from border areas to discourage tourists
  • Ending the testing of ecstasy tablets at dance parties

Authorities had introduced such "testing stations" to ensure people were not taking drugs laced with toxic chemicals.

Jan Peter Balkenende, the new prime minister, has made clear that he takes a dim view of the sale of soft drugs, and of euthanasia, which became legal earlier this year.


This was supposed to be new politics, but I can't find any of it

Tom de Graaf, D66
The coalition says it will order a "review" of the practice of mercy killing.

Opposition parties have described the programme as superficial, unrealistic and "heartless".

"This was supposed to be new politics, but I can't find any of it," said Tom de Graaf, of the D66 party, when the programme was presented to parliament in early July.


Key stories

Background

Fortuyn shooting

FACTFILE

FORUM

TALKING POINT
See also:

16 May 02 | Europe
16 May 02 | Europe
16 May 02 | Europe
16 May 02 | Europe
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