Dutch 2012 budget: less money for human rights
The 2012 budget is all about cut-backs, including to the human rights budget.
The cabinet writes that the global – and by extension the Dutch - economic situation will remain problematic for the next few years. The budget deficit is expected to reach 2.9 percent in 2012 and economic growth will not exceed one percent.
Substantial cut-backs will be made to all policy areas, and all Dutch consumers will face a drop in spending power of one percent on average.
In addition to the budget cuts to development cooperation announced earlier, there will also be less funds available for emergency aid and human rights policies. The emergency aid budget will decrease from 250 to 219 million euros. The human rights budget will decrease from 100.6 million euros in 2012 to 94.1 million in 2015. Green Left party foreign policy spokesperson Mariko Peters says: “This cabinet is concerned exclusively with economic diplomacy and pursues an impoverished human rights policy. The time-honoured tradition of strong human rights polices has been rescinded.”
The total foreign affairs budget will increase slightly in the coming years, to 11.8 billion euros. Socialist Party MP Harry van Bommel says the 2012 budget contains very few surprises. “We are not going to have the debate on the closure of diplomatic missions again, that’s over and done with.” Dutch foreign policy will be all about Dutch interests. A minimum of 17 trade missions are intended to “cash in on “all opportunities for the business community.” The government will also make additional funds available for the Arab countries, increasing from 7.5 million euros in 2012 to 15 million euros in 2015.
The foreign ministry wants to use the money to train diplomats, support political parties, improve the justice chain and support the business community. The government also argues for opening up the EU market to products from North Africa, with an emphasis on agricultural products. The cabinet writes that “stability and development in that region are of importance to both the Netherlands and Europe as a whole,” among other reasons, because chaos in North Africa would lead to crime and illegal migration.
The cabinet expects that accelerated procedures will lead to a reduction in the number of asylum seekers. Fewer asylum applications and shorter stays should lead to cost reductions at refugee centres. Integrations costs should also go down: as of 2013, immigrants will have to pay for their integration courses. If necessary, they can apply for a low-interest loan from the government.
The date on which the new budget is published is an annually recurring struggle in the Netherlands. After a few years in which the document was leaked prematurely, the cabinet decided to publish it on Friday, instead of the traditional date of the third Tuesday in September. By figuring out the URL of the official text, a journalist managed to obtain the document still one day earlier.
Political reactions to the news of the leak varied from “highly unfortunate Deputy Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker Christian Democrats to “unbelievably stupid” Labour Party leader Job Cohen. Coming hard on the heels of the recent which hugely embarrassed the cabinet, the blunder once again calls into question whether the government has its digital affairs in order.
The euro crisis and a possible bankruptcy of Greece will not remain without consequences for the Netherlands, and additional budget cuts may well prove necessary.
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