Dutch news in brief, Friday 17 July 2009

17th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

Will military R&D cuts compromise troop safety?
Government cutbacks are always a sensitive issue but even more so when the lives of soldiers may be at risk as a result.

De Telegraaf leads with "Safety of our soldiers under threat" and news that the Ministry of Defence plans to cut over EUR 20 million on developing weapons, electronic equipment and protective clothing for Dutch troops.

The proposed savings are not direct cuts on military spending but on the research and development behind the equipment - the Soldier Modernisation Programme run by scientists at research institute TNO.

The institute describes the cuts as "historically unprecedented and disproportionately heavy" and warns that job losses among highly trained research staff will be inevitable.

The government insists that cutbacks in operational activities such as the mission in Afghanistan are "absolutely out of the question" but the researchers counter that scaling back research into techniques for detecting roadside bombs for example is more than just "putting the brakes on new gadgets".

To emphasise this point, the paper interviews an explosives expert with the Dutch Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, who estimates that between 140 and 150 improvised explosive devices are planted in the ground each week.

"This enemy spares nothing and nobody," is his grim conclusion.

Somali pirate wants sea back
AD talks to one of five Somali pirates awaiting trial here in the Netherlands for attacking a vessel that was sailing under the flag of the Netherlands Antilles in the Gulf of Aden.

Speaking from a Dutch prison cell 6,000 kilometres from home, 24-year-old Yusuf gives "an open-hearted interview" ahead of "a unique criminal case ... the first time ever that pirates have faced trial in the Netherlands".

Yusuf blames the West's fishing industry for making him and his compatriots turn to piracy. "Big Western ships come and empty our seas of fish. They make it impossible for us to make a living. Give us back the sea and the piracy will stop."

He claims the only reason he and his fellow pirates approached the Antillean vessel was because they ran into trouble at sea and wouldn't have been able to make it back to shore under their own steam. The Dutch authorities regard the incident as a failed hijacking attempt.

Meanwhile, Yusuf appears to be more relieved than anything to be in the Netherlands, despite being behind bars.

"At home I was already living in a small world. Here I have a television, food and the chance to earn some money working in the prison." He hopes his wife and children will be able to join him despite his status as "undesirable alien". He seems to have no desire to return to his homeland: "I fear for my life if I have to return ... As long as we cannot fish, there's no future for me there."
New law to protect funeral processions
Transport Minister Camiel Eurlings wants to reinstate a 20-year-old law that forbids motorists from cutting in on a funeral cortege.

De Volkskrant explains the ban was lifted back in 1990 when the use of black cars in funeral corteges had decreased to such an extent that it was becoming impossible for motorists to distinguish the procession from regular traffic.

The minister declares that the measure goes beyond traffic: "It says a lot about respect in our society in the broader sense."

De Volkskrant talks to a Rotterdam undertaker who insists that lack of respect isn't the issue. "It's nothing to do with the deterioration of society's values it's just that the procession can't be seen."

To tackle this issue, the transport minister has come up with the bright idea of attaching little black flags to every car in the cortege. Not all practical problems have yet been addressed though.

In answer to the question of what should be done when traffic lights change to red when only half of the cortege has gone through, his best offer was mumbling something about "increasing driver awareness".

Dutch cycling heroes: a thing of the past?
The Tour de France continues to hold the Netherlands - a nation of cycling enthusiasts - in its sway. But it's been a while since a Dutch cyclist has given the nation much to cheer about.

NRC-next notes nostalgically that it has been four years since a Dutchman won a stage of the Tour de France when Pieter Weening - on his first Tour - gave the Netherlands "an unforgettable day of cycling with a bloodcurdling finish".

The paper observes ruefully that the situation this year is very different. "The Dutch climbers are nowhere to be seen and our highest placed rider is Laurens ten Dam, back in 40th place."

Little wonder that Dutch national cycling coach Leo van Vliet is ringing the alarm bells and "crying out for a Dutch attack", according to AD.

However, it's not Tour de France glory the coach is worried about. Instead, he is worried the Dutch are dropping out of the world Top 10 and only being able to take six cyclists to the World Championships instead of nine. That would be an inglorious first for the Netherlands.

"We're being overtaken on all sides. I don't want anyone turning round and saying 'Leo, why didn't you warn us?'"

However, the Dutch cyclists seem to be more irked by the coach's rallying cry than anything. "We know we need to attack, believe me. A press release isn't going to help us go any faster."

Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica

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