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Dutch News
Opposition criticises cabinet in debate 3/2/2007
AMSTERDAM - The Labour PvdA is adamant that its state secretary for justice, Nebahat Albayrak, will not be forced to give up her Turkish passport during this government term. Faction leader Jacques Tichelaar made this clear on Thursday night in the debate in Parliament on the government policy statement.

Faction leader of the Freedom Party (PVV) Geert Wilders submitted a motion of no-confidence against Albayrak and fellow PvdA member state secretary for social affairs Ahmed Aboutaleb, who holds both Dutch and Moroccan nationality. Moroccan law prohibits him from relinquishing Moroccan nationality, but this is not the case for a Turkish national like Albayrak.

Wilders thinks that the two government members have an ostensible conflict of interest because of their dual nationality and that they should therefore resign.

He did not get any support for his motion, though the Liberal VVD did say it thought legislation should be introduced to put an end to dual nationality.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende assured the PvdA that no amendments would be made to the constitutional article which states that anyone holding Dutch nationality may hold public office. He also said he had no doubts whatsoever about the loyalty of "optimally integrated" Albayrak and Aboutaleb.

The discussion on dual nationality was the most politically sensitive part of the debate on the government policy statement. Balkenende made ardent attempts to mollify the opposition factions. He called on them to engage in "constructive dialogue" and promised that the ministers would consult with the relevant parliamentary committees in fleshing out the most important pillars of policy.

The cabinet had already promised to discuss its plans with social organisations over the coming months. "Working together" is the key notion of the coalition accord.

The opposition parties appreciated Balkenende''s attempts at conciliation, but their criticism continued. Socialist SP and Green Left GroenLinks think the proposed policy does not form enough of a break with the previous Balkenende governments. They say that especially the plans to tackle environmental problems and fight poverty are inadequate.

VVD, Democrats D66 and GroenLinks all were annoyed at the patronising attitude they perceive from the cabinet.

VVD leader Mark Rutte accused the cabinet of abandoning the financially sound policy of former Liberal Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm by basing its plans on higher prognoses for economic growth. Balkenende denied that the government would be "squandering" the hard earned gains of the past years.

The prime minister also said that Rutte''s claim that the new government policy would be saddling middle incomes with higher taxes was premature. He pointed out that the cabinet still had to work out the details of its plans to improve purchasing power.

Rutte and D66 leader Alexander Pechtold both voiced harsh criticism of the section on medical-ethical issues in the coalition agreement.

The cabinet wants to look into whether the right to life can be included in the constitution. Rutte says that is "another way of saying: no abortion or euthanasia."

The opposition also had fierce criticism for the continuation of a ban on stem cell research and the protection of municipal officials who refuse on moral grounds to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

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