Dutch news in brief, Friday 13 November 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.
Government approves pension plan
Thursday was the big debate on the government's plans to raise the pension age from 65 to 67.
De Telegraaf published a photo of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Finance Minister Wouter Bos looking stony-faced and imperious next to a headline that read: "In the pocket!"
Despite fierce protests from the opposition and the unions, the government's plan sailed through Thursday’s vote.
As de Volkskrant reported, the opposition let rip with a whole host of pithy one-liners in an attempt to put a dent in the “biggest and most controversial reform since this government took office”. “The electorate has been duped!”
“You’re pulling the wool over the public’s eyes!” thundered the right-wing Freedom Party and the left-wing Socialists. The conservative VVD savaged the plan as a “monstrosity”, while GreenLeft dismissed it as “a mishmash born of political bungling”.
de Volkskrant went on to note that “the coalition was not in trouble for a single second”. The opposition’s main problem was that they were divided: half of the parties were fighting tooth and nail to maintain the status quo, while the other half were touting alternative approaches for making the move from 65 to 67.
This split in the opposition was reason enough for the Prime Minister to trumpet at the end of the debate that “there has been a fundamental shift in the Netherlands”. Raising the pension age was once taboo but “people now see that this measure is necessary”.
However, de Volkskrant’s editorial warned that Balkenende shouldn’t count his chickens just yet. It observed the government was at a loss to answer the opposition’s questions on how much money the plan would generate, as well as crucial issues such as the age groups most affected and what to do about people with physically demanding jobs.
The paper pointed out the danger of postponing such difficult decisions indefinitely, concluding that “it will be a story that’s difficult to explain to the electorate.”
Dutch Euro MP furious at Nicaragua expulsion
Dutch Euro MP Hans van Baalen of the conservative VVD is furious at having been expelled from Nicaragua.
“This treatment of a democratically elected people’s representative is a disgrace,” he fumed in De Telegraaf. “This kind of behaviour belongs in an East German museum.”
Van Baalen was in Nicaragua in his capacity as chairman of the Liberal International Federation to offer a show of support to the country’s opposition.
However, the authorities were not amused by the Euro MP’s criticism of President Daniel Ortega and his influence on the country’s Supreme Court.
It’s hard to tell what has angered Van Baalen more: the expulsion itself or the fact that news of it only reached him when he was about to leave in any case.
“These people can’t even do a decent job of throwing someone out of the country,” he fulminated. “I demand to be chucked out of a country properly and not to receive a cowardly last-minute notification.”
De Telegraaf harrumphed right along with him. In its editorial, it said “silencing a politician is proof that Ortega’s Sandinista clan is unfit to govern” and called for “fierce protests from Europe” and for “naïve aid organisations that still support Nicaragua to think again”.
Dutch government plays Big Brother with fingerprint repository
Free-sheet newspaper De Pers lead with the news that three civil rights organisations planned to take the Dutch government to court over its plans to set up a central repository for fingerprints.
The fingerprints are collected as biometric data for the new generation of passports and ID cards, a decision imposed by Europe.
However, the Netherlands is unique in deciding to centralise the storage of this data.
“What the government is going to do is a step too far” argued lawyer Bart Schermer who specialises in privacy law.
“These are physical characteristics which citizens give to the government” he insisted, speculating that a citizen who applied for a new passport but refused to supply their fingerprints “could well have a leg to stand on in legal terms.”
The lawyer added creating a central storage unit could also create a security risk.
“If it’s hacked and criminals gain access to these fingerprints, they could make 100,000 false passports.”
The Interior Ministry insisted the central facility is necessary for “organisational reasons” and could be defended as vital to the interests of society.
“Why then is it only the Netherlands that sees the need for a central fingerprint repository?” pointed out legal expert Arnoud Engelfriet.
Graceland mansion in Breda not welcome by all
AD reported “good new for Elvis fans” as the town of Breda looked set to get its very own Graceland-style mansion.
It was not good news for local residents who fear the pompous villa as an eyesore. They were even worried it might be turned into a brothel due to the presence of such decadent features as a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi and a relaxation room.
In one of those peculiar twists of the Dutch legal system, even though the angry residents won their case this week, the court also ruled that the building could continue.
The Graceland builder’s lawyer presented the other side of the argument: “It’s all very well talking about not interfering with the rustic character of the neighbourhood but that disappeared long ago. We’re talking about a street on the edge of town just along from an industrial estate. Someone has even built an aircraft hangar.”
The notion of Elvis fans flocking to Breda is not as random as it might seem.
AD revealed Breda is the birthplace of Elvis’s Svengali-like manager Colonel Tom Parker, who was originally named Dries van Kuijk.
Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica