After nearly six months of negotiations, Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders this week reached a governing agreement with three other conservative parties. Although, during the first hours, attention was focused on the twenty-six pages occupied by the political pact, the document detailing how they will carry out “the toughest asylum policy in the history of the country ”, it turned out that the financial annex contains quite a few surprises, especially for the cultural sector.

The Netherlands’ upcoming coalition government aims to raise from 9% to 21% the VAT on books, newspapers and magazines, among other cultural goods and services such as tickets for music concerts and theater , or the purchase of works of art. The measure will apply “from January 1, 2026”, reads the document signed by the far-right Partit per la Llibertat (PVV), the Moviment Camperol Ciutadà (BBB), the liberals (VVD) and Nou Social Contract (NCS). Only “the cinema and daytime recreational activities” are explicitly excluded. According to the Trouw newspaper, in the European Union, only Bulgaria applies a 21% VAT to the press.

In reality, the issue had already been addressed during the campaign and the Central Planning Office (CPB), the body that deals, among other things, with assessing the economic impact of electoral promises to prevent parties from spread falsehoods, he made calculations about the impact that raising VAT would have on the cultural sector. He estimated that the collection would be 400 million euros, because he did not take into account that the increase would also affect books and the press, both written and digital. The next government intends to enter 943 million.

DPG, the publishing group to which the newspapers Volkskrant, Trouw and AD belong, has warned that the measure will make it difficult for some of the public to access information, precisely when journalism is more necessary than ever for its proper functioning of democracy

The professional associations of book distributors, bookstores, publishers and publicists have issued a joint statement in which they declare themselves “very concerned” about the next government’s plans. The increase in VAT from 9% to 21% “will lead to an increase in final retail prices and a drop in sales”, something serious “at a time when everyone recognizes the importance of reading”. The same government agreement, they remind the parties, “states that priority will be given to improving reading skills and that improving skills in the Dutch language will become a central task of higher education institutions”.

The Dutch Public Broadcasting (NPO), for its part, will have to tighten its belt, although the blow will be less severe than it might have been: while the Liberals proposed a funding cut of 400 million euros, almost half of its average total annual budget in recent years, Wilders directly wanted to close it, and NCS, to close a channel. Finally, the coalition agreement foresees a cut of 100 million euros.