Dutch government falls as row over cuts tears coalition apart

Tim Wallace
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EUROPE’S debt crisis toppled its latest government yesterday, and another teetered on the brink, as coalitions in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic tore themselves apart in deficit reduction negotiations.

The scale of the challenge was further underlined by new EU data which showed a total deficit of 4.1 per cent of GDP for the Eurozone and 4.5 per cent for the EU as a whole.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte offered his resignation yesterday after failing to convince coalition member Geert Wilders, of the nationalist Freedom Party, to support his cuts.

Rutte was trying to pass a budget which would cut between €14bn (£11.4bn) and €16bn in state spending to meet the EU’s borrowing targets, but Wilders rejected proposals that could hit the elderly.

Meanwhile the junior partner in the Czech Republic’s centre-right coalition broke up, threatening the government’s stability.

However, it is thought the government has sufficient backing to continue, and the Prime Minister was last night believed to be considering calling a vote of confidence in his leadership for this Friday.

Figures out yesterday from Eurostat showed the Czech Republic’s deficit ran at 3.1 per cent of GDP in 2011, compared with 4.8 per cent in 2010 and 5.8 per cent in 2009. The Netherlands’ came in at 4.7 per cent last year, down from 5.1 per cent in 2010 and 5.6 per cent in 2009.