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World News | Dutch PM resigns amid thorny immigration impasse, paving way for new elections

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THE HAGUE, July 8 (AP) — The Dutch government has collapsed amid irreconcilable differences within a four-party coalition over how to control immigration, an issue that has divided Europe.

The resignation of the country’s longest-serving prime minister, Mark Rutte, on Friday means the country faces a general election later this year. Rutte and his government will remain in office as a caretaker until a new governing coalition is elected.

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“It’s no secret that coalition partners have very different views on immigration policy,” Rutte told reporters in The Hague. “Unfortunately, today we have to conclude that these differences are irreconcilable. That’s why I The resignation of the entire Cabinet will be offered immediately … in writing to the King.”

Even before Rutte formally confirmed his resignation, opposition lawmakers immediately called for new elections.

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“A quick election now,” tweeted Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Liberal Party. Across the political spectrum, Green Left leader Jesse Claver also called for an election, telling the Dutch broadcaster “The country needs a change of direction,” the NOS said.

Rutte chaired late-night meetings on Wednesday and Thursday but failed to reach an agreement on immigration policy. In the final round of talks on Friday night, it was unanimously decided that they could not reach an agreement and therefore could not remain in the league.

The decision highlights the tension between parties that do not support a tougher crackdown on immigration (the D66 and fellow centrist party ChristenUnie, or the Christian Union) and those that support tougher measures since the coalition was sworn in more than 18 months ago. ideological differences. – The conservative Liberal Democratic People’s Party and Christian Democrats led by Rutte.

Similar discussions are unfolding across political divisions elsewhere in Europe, as migrants fleeing conflict or seeking a better life make the perilous sea crossing from North Africa to the continent. Hundreds of thousands have also fled the brutal war in Ukraine.

Migration will be a big theme in next year’s EU parliamentary elections, but the issue came up early in the Netherlands, a country long torn between welcoming international aid and increasingly resisting foreign influence.

Rutte’s coalition has been trying for months to hammer out a deal to reduce the influx of new immigrants into the country of nearly 18 million people. Proposals reportedly include creating two categories of asylum – one for temporary shelter for those fleeing the conflict and one for permanent asylum for those trying to escape persecution – and reducing the number of family members allowed to join Dutch asylum seekers.

Hundreds of asylum seekers were forced to sleep outdoors in squalor near crowded reception centers last year as more people arrived in the Netherlands than there were available beds. Assistance was provided by Dutch aid agencies.

According to Statistics Netherlands, just over 21,500 people from outside Europe will seek asylum in the Netherlands in 2022. Tens of thousands of people immigrated to the Netherlands to work and study.

The figures put pressure on already-supplied housing in the densely populated country.

Rutte’s government is working on a law forcing municipalities to accommodate newly arriving asylum seekers, but the legislation has yet to pass both houses of parliament.

The prime minister has also pushed for EU efforts to slow immigration to the bloc of 27 nations. Rutte visited Tunisia last month along with Italy’s foreign minister and the head of the European Commission, offering more than 1 billion euros in financial aid to rescue the North African country’s crumbling economy and stem migration from its shores to Europe.

Rutte’s fourth coalition government comes to power in January 2022 after the longest coalition negotiations in Dutch political history.

Elections for the lower house of the Dutch parliament later this year will be held in a polarized and divided political landscape – with 150 seats in the lower house and 20 parties.

A populist pro-farmer party pushed Rutte’s party into second place in provincial elections earlier this year. The defeat is seen as likely to inspire Rutte to do his best to keep his coalition together until his term ends in 2025. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have modified or edited the body of content)


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