Which director will soon be responsible for rail, mental health care or animal welfare? Broadly speaking, we can outline the portfolio distribution of the Rutte IV cabinet – after all, the names and bib numbers are already known – but the precise division of tasks between them has yet to be recorded. This is happening today in the so-called constituent deliberation, the first meeting of the new ministerial team.
An official council of ministers is not yet, because the twenty requested members can only really call themselves minister when they are sworn in on Monday and are on the boards. The founding meeting , as the constituent deliberation is also called, is really intended for the latest mutual agreements – constituting means establishing . It is also the intention that everyone in the meeting officially supports the coalition agreement.
Veterans remember from the constituent deliberation mainly the dots on the i or, in the words of former Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin (CDA): “The final finesses of the formation.” According to him, the deliberation is mainly intended for matters that are not in the coalition agreement, but that must be confirmed somewhere before the new cabinet officially starts.
“Who does what, is that clearly agreed enough?” Jet Bussemaker (PvdA) formulates one of the questions on the table during the constituent deliberation. For example, when she joined as an upcoming Minister for Education, Culture and Science (OCW) in 2012, there were still some details about the alignment between the science policy, which falls under OCW, and the innovation policy, in which Economic Affairs takes the lead.
The question of exactly who is about what is now more relevant than ever, says Bussemaker, with a team of twenty ministers and nine secretaries of state. But at least as important as that legal demarcation, according to her, is something different. “In the constituent deliberation, it is also about the feeling of: we are going to do this together.”
Here are the twenty candidate ministers for Rutte IV:
Ernst Hirsch Ballin, like Bussemaker, recalls that topics that do not belong to one minister by themselves still have to be aligned in the deliberation. With him, the police were such a subject. In 1989, it had to be determined who would have the most control of this: the Minister of the Interior, Ien Dales, or that of Justice, Hirsch Ballin.
“We had agreed on that in advance, but they had to be confirmed in the deliberation,” says Hirsch Ballin. “For me, it was an essential point that, for example, the investigation would not be transferred to Home Affairs.”
The former minister considers it possible that climate is such an interdepartmental subject this year. “There will be a minister for Climate and Energy now, but who will soon be about international climate policy? Does the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation play their own role in this? It is conceivable that further agreements will be made on such a subject.”
“Does not represent a ball”
Does it make sense for the forthcoming ministers to arrive with a wish list today? That did happen, knows former Minister of Finance Gerrit Zalm (VVD). “Some ministers came up with all kinds of budget requests. They were often stoked up by officials from their department, to bring in something else in the constituent deliberation. But I havent experienced anything ever came out of that. That kind of request was truncated.”
In fact, according to Zalm, the deliberation suggests “virtually no ball”. “The finances are regulated in the coalition agreement, the portfolios are already divided, so pretty little is actually happening. I thought it was exciting the first time, but it wasnt much.”
You do get to hear the dos and donts, says the former VVD minister. “You will be handed out the blue book, which states what you have to adhere to as a minister, what it is about the service car, things like that. A kind of soldiers handbook for ministers, that you can take home.”
Former Minister Bussemaker does recognize that officials want to give the incoming administrators a little something or two. “But youll never get you done more than the dots on the i.” According to the three veterans, the deliberation also takes far too short: often at most an hour and a half.
“Sometimes the image that is still being renegotiated on everything, but that is not the case,” says Bussemaker. “The constituent deliberation is also about celebrating with each other that you are sitting there, realizing that you are going to do it. Youre sitting together for the first time: everyone is very delighted.”