On this, the protagonists in the formation hold the jaws together.

After the months of who-geharrewarding, the formation finally entered the substantive phase a week ago. Four parties are negotiating what should become a concise coalition agreement, which mainly states what needs to be done and to a lesser extent how to do so.

Talks are also being held today, at the Catshuis, the Prime Minister‘s office residence. Sunday is a day of rest and Monday the weather continues at the usual location near the Binnenhof.

Which topics come in and which are not, everyone keeps the jaws stiff on each other so far. โ€œIn a formation, it’s better to keep it to ourselves until we‘re done,โ€ VVD secondant Sophie Hermans said this week. The fact that everyone involved is adhering to that so far is a sign that the parties really want to get out with each other.

Initiation of a set-up

But of course there are inescapable themes that a new coalition needs to deal with. Take nitrogen: pre-corona called Rutte that dossier the biggest crisis in his premiership and the problem has not yet been tackled.

Nitrogen is a politically complex dossier; for example, VVD and D66 did not write about it in their ‘initiation of a coalition agreement‘ last summer, while many other themes were addressed in it.

The views therefore vary and the big stumbling point is to intervene with farmers. The agricultural sector is the largest nitrogen evictor and D66 focuses its arrows in particular. The livestock must be considerably smaller from the lot and a compulsory reduction is not excluded.

Shrinkage is less obvious for VVD and CDA. And expropriating farmers are really taking these parties too far. The two would like to focus on technological innovation, for example to clear the air in stables. Incidentally, a nice addition to this dossier is that informer Remkes wrote the nitrogen report last year, with all kinds of recommendations to curb the crisis.

An additional topic is housing construction. Because if you don’t do anything about the nitrogen problem, housing projects will stop. And the shortage of housing is dire. What the four parties agree on is that there will be a million homes in the years to come.

Then you can still disagree on questions such as: who are those homes for, what type of property is needed and where to get them. D66 wants new neighbourhoods for middle-income people (including the CDA target group), VVD wants to promote โ€œbuild, build, buildโ€ in many ways, and the ChristenUnie has an eye for starters and seniors.

Not with the naked eye

In addition to nitrogen, there is another substance that you can‘t see with the naked eye, but that leads to discussion: CO2. The Dutch Climate Act states that by 2030 there should be 49% reduction in emissions compared to 1990, and in the EU context the target has now been set at 55%.

How to get there – and if you shouldn’t go further – the four can set up a tree about that. You can impose CO2 charges on the heavy industry, you can store CO2, you can use more renewable energy or nuclear energy.

And what is undoubtedly also on the negotiating table is immigration (in the current coalition D66 and ChristenUnie were arranged against VVD and CDA on that point), education (D66 wants to make the โ€œbiggest structural investment in education everโ€), Lelystad airport (VVD wants to open it, ChristenUnie and D66 not) and care (by far the most expensive part of the Million Note, which is only getting more expensive).

Complete Life Law

There are also medical ethical issues. D66 and ChristenUnie are diametrically opposed to this. The current coalition agreed to take things slow on this theme, but D66 and VVD do not want another four years of standstill.

Or, in the words of D66 leader Kaag, when she ruled out the Christian Union this summer: โ€œA car you park will rust if you don‘t drive it.โ€ And what’s in the trunk? The law completes life, growing embryos for scientific research and abolishing the compulsory reflection period in abortions.

The Christian Union wants to establish these issues in a coalition agreement. The two liberal parties believe that the House of Representatives should vote on it. Because it is a sensitive point in the negotiations, ChristenUnion leader Segers has said that โ€œmedical ethicalโ€ needs to be discussed quickly.

And last but not least the surcharges. Nine months ago, the current cabinet fell over it, and the next cabinet has to deal with it. Even if only because the recovery operation is not going well, but also because the system does not work well according to the four forming parties.

Santa Claus or Christmas

The payment system with childcare, care and rent allowance is complex. That leads to all kinds ofimplementation problems with major consequences for people, but it also makes it possible to give support to those who are entitled to do so.

The VVD wants to simplify the system โ€œwithout vulnerable people deterioratingโ€. The CDA also advocates simplification and accepts that schemes become more โ€œunfocusedโ€. The ChristenUnie and D66 want to exchange the payment system for a tax rebate.

How long it will take until all these topics are bundled in a coalition agreement is unclear. The mouths of protagonists have sounded โ€œcertainly a few more weeksโ€ recently, or words of equal meaning. A little more specific in the corridors sounds the hope of a Sinterklaas accord or a Christmas accord.