Correspondent's Choice

This article about the collapse of the Dutch government was published by EurActiv on 22nd February 2010.

The Dutch coalition government collapsed on Saturday (20 February) after the two largest parties disagreed over whether to withdraw the Netherlands’ 2,000 troops from Afghanistan as planned this year. A general election is widely expected to be held in May or June.

Balkenende’s fourth cabinet in the last eight years fell apart on Saturday morning after the Labour Party pulled out of government, insisting it could not support a NATO request to extend the Dutch mission past this year.

Dutch troops are likely to leave Afghanistan this year as planned, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Sunday, as early polls showed his rivals benefiting from the government’s collapse over the mission.

NATO had asked the Netherlands, among the top 10 contributing nations to the mission, to look into the possibility of a longer stay.

“If nothing else will take its place, then it ends,” Balkenende told Dutch current affairs television programme Buitenhof in an interview on Sunday.

The 2,000-strong Dutch contingent is due to start leaving the Afghan province of Uruzgan in August and Balkenende bemoaned the impact of the pullout on the standing of the Dutch internationally. “The image of the Netherlands is far from flourishing abroad. They do not understand what we are doing,” he said.

“The moment the Netherlands says as the sole and first country that we will no longer have activities at the end of 2010, it will raise questions in other countries and this really pains me.”

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