Dutch news in brief, Friday 19 June 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.
The Dutch government has bitten the bullet by deciding to purchase Mexican flu vaccines to counteract a “winter breakout” of the pandemic. Trouw reports 34 million doses of the vaccine, which is still under development, have been ordered for delivery by the end of the year.
That is enough vaccine to inoculate everybody in the Netherlands twice, as immunity against a new virus may require two doses. Up to now it was uncertain whether the government would target high risk groups, but pandemics affect everyone and this virus appears to mainly affect young people rather than the old, who are usually at high risk. The cost of the vaccine is estimated to be around EUR 300 million.
The more the disease spreads, the more likely it is that it will hit when temperatures start to fall. A winter outbreak of Mexican flu is expected to spread throughout the northern hemisphere in September and October. If it does it could cost between 4,000 and 10,000 lives.
Without a vaccine 30 to 35 percent of the population could catch the disease. Up to now the government had stored 4.5 million doses of antiviral drugs to combat small outbreaks. According to the paper, the treatment of these outbreaks buys time for the World Health Organisation to develop a vaccine.
De Telegraaf outraged by attack on press freedom
De Telegraaf is outraged by what its editor-in-chief, Sjuul Paradijs, calls an “attack on the freedom of the press”. One of its reporters, Jolande van der Graaf, is accused of revealing state secrets after reporting in March on failures by the Dutch intelligence agency (AIVD) with regard to the war in Iraq. The tearful reporter is photographed on the front page of the paper after her house was ransacked by police.
A member of AIVD staff and her partner, a former employee at the intelligence agency, are accused of being the source of the biggest leak to date. Nrc.next reports that the police found secret documents in the home of the journalist and top secret information at the home of the other suspects. If prosecuted the three could face up to six years in prison for the possession of “documents containing state secrets”.
The penalty for publishing state secrets is a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. De Telegraaf is preparing an official complaint against the intelligence agency. It is not the first time reporters from the paper have been in trouble with the authorities; two journalists were bugged and detained in 2006 after revealing leaks in the AIVD.
Spectacular opening of Hermitage museum in Amsterdam
In Amsterdam tonight, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev will open the Hermitage, a branch of the famous state museum in the former Russian Tsar’s Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. According to Trouw, the spectacular opening marks the end of a 42 million-euro project to restore the colossal seventeenth-century building on the banks of the river Amstel to its former glory.
What was once a nursing home for “old biddies” has been transformed from a “dark bastion into a light museum” within budget and on time. The project is a success for the Dutch capital which has been dogged by costly delays in several of its building projects recently.
The renovation of the Rijksmuseum being one of them. Which might explain why de Volkskrant reports that the museum famous for Rembrandt’s 'Night Watch' has dropped its objections to the Hermitage showing its Rembrandt collection.
At first the two museums agreed that the Hermitage would not to display its collection of 20 Rembrandts, as the new museum was keen to remain on good terms with the existing museums in Amsterdam. Now, with the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum postponed until 2013 – three years later than planned - Rembrandts will be included in the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage. The Hermitage will be open to the public for 31 hours non-stop from 10 am on Saturday through to 5 pm on Sunday.
Generic medicines for developing countries confiscated
Dutch customs officials have confiscated generic medicines destined for developing countries. De Volkskrant reports that customs officials suspect patent laws have been contravened by the Indian producers of the generic medicines – which are cheaper versions of patented medicines. Oxfam Novib and Doctors without Borders have gone to the European Union to raise the alarm as hundreds of thousands of patients in developing countries are not getting their medicine or are receiving them too late.
India is considering taking legal action via the World Trade Organisation because international trade agreements have been broken. It is thought that Dutch customs officials are interpreting EU directives on patent laws too strictly.
The medicines, which are produced in India, are transported to Africa and South America via Europe. Last year, shipments of medicines were stopped 17 times. The medicines include HIV AIDS inhibitors. Esmé Berkhout of Oxfam Novib says: “The confusion surrounding fake drugs and generic medicines appears to be a strategy to frustrate the trade in generic medicines. The clear winner is the pharmaceutical industry and the losers are the patients in developing countries.”
Aid organisations say the Dutch and since recently the German authorities are breaking international agreements on generic medicines laid down in the Doha declaration. There appears to be no short-term solution to the problem according to the paper as the European Commission says it has to clamp down on the large influx of fake medicines.
Plenty of holiday jobs for young people
Once they have finished celebrating passing their exams, young people in the Netherlands can get a job. According to AD, there is no shortage of holiday work for young people in spite of the economic recession. A survey by the youth branch of the federation of unions FNV Jong reveals that a third of young people prefer to work in shops, a quarter in restaurants and bars and somewhat surprisingly in third place for favourite jobs is the healthcare sector.
Seventy-five percent of young people will take a holiday job this summer. And what’s more is they want to work more hours, more days and more weeks than usual. Probably to compensate for the poor pay. According to FNV Jong, the minimum wage in the Netherlands is surprisingly low. More than half of young people do not even know how much they are entitled to. The most shocking outcome of the survey is that girls earn less than boys. It seems discrimination in the workplace starts at an early age!
Radio Netherlands/ Nicola Chadwick/ Expatica