Dutch news in brief, Friday 2 October 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.DSB: a run on the bank?
Friday papers look into the dramatic events surrounding controversial bank DSB, which may have survived a run on the bank yesterday, or at least what seemed like one.
de Volkskrant describes how “DSB was briefly shaken to its very foundations”, while AD speculates that it may have been saved by the “mysterious malfunction” of its website.
The whole shebang kicked off when Pieter Lakeman, chairman of an organisation representing around 1,100 DSB customers in dire financial straits due to loans and mortgages issued by the bank, called on DSB’s customers to bring down the bank by withdrawing their savings en masse.
He argued this would be the best remedy for those in a financial stranglehold caused by the bank’s allegedly dubious practices which were recently slammed by Finance Minister Wouter Bos as being “utterly idiotic”.
The bank’s website crashed after Lakeman’s TV appearance. The bank’s customer service department had said earlier that the site was “extra busy” due to his statement.
This was denied later in the day, when the bank’s PR officer announced that the site was under attack by hackers “from 12 separate locations in Europe” and that there was absolutely no sign that hordes of customers were trying to withdraw their savings.
DSB is facing investigation for sales practices which are allegedly encouraging customers to take out loans and mortgages they are unlikely to repay. The bank had EUR 3.8 billion in savings at the end of 2008 and is mainly an internet bank these days.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister and the Dutch central bank both criticised Lakeman’s appeal as “irresponsible” and “unwise”. Other legal representatives of DSB customers dismissed the appeal as an attention-seeking stunt.
de Volkskrant notes with interest that the banking establishment, which had earlier dismissed DSB as a “dubious loan shark factory” and its boss Dirk Scheringa as a “pseudo-Berulsconi”, are now rushing to the bank’s defence.
The paper cites two plausible reasons for this change of heart. If DSB goes bankrupt, they will have to cough up the money to cover the savings of its customers. The banks may have also invested billions in DSB mortgage products which will become worthless if the bank collapses.
The Netherlands lags behind in women professors
de Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad take a look at the plight of women in the upper echelons of higher education. There are plenty of female students and PhD candidates but – asks de Volkskrant – “where are the female professors?”
While the number of women professors is increasing every year, its annual rise of 0.5 percent is still lower than the rest of Europe. The only European countries with fewer female professors are Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Belgium.
de Volkskrant points out that only three of the Netherlands’ 15 universities have a woman on the executive board and that two thirds of professorial appointments are decided on “behind closed doors, in rooms full of men”.
“The old boys’ network remains all powerful in Dutch academic circles.”
NRC Handelsblad talks to astronomy professor Sera Markoff who takes a broader view. She points to the lack of female role models from an early age and the strong tendency among Dutch women to work part-time.
While she doesn’t see positive discrimination as ideal, she does think it has a role to play in redressing the balance in the short term. “Forty years ago there were still separate drinking fountains for black and white in the American South and now we have a black president. I reckon positive discrimination played a part in that shift.”
Scars of WWII run deep in Putten
De Telegraaf looks back to a wartime tragedy that took place in the Dutch town of Putten 65 years ago.
On 2 October 1944, German soldiers surrounded the town of Putten following the death of a German officer who was killed by Dutch resistance members. Over 100 homes were razed to the ground and 661 men shipped off to work camps.
When the Germans capitulated in May 1945, only 48 came back alive.
The paper describes how the ordeal also affected those who were fortunate to return. “Those who had lost their father or husband were often so overcome with grief that the survivors met with incomprehension and resentment. In the years that followed, they were given no assistance to help them cope with what they had been through.”
The head of the association that commemorates the events of October ’44 told NRC Handelsblad: “The stories are heartbreaking.”
His grandfather lost three brothers in the raid. “Some families have been scarred for life by their loss. There are people whose trauma is so deep, they still refuse to talk about it.”
KLM stewardesses to wear trousers
Dutch flagship airline KLM unveils its new line of stewardess uniforms as ladies can now wear trousers for the first time, reports de Volkskrant.
The trousers were introduced at the request of many stewardesses, and will be available alongside a choice of two skirts. The new suit for women pilots was also unveiled although women pilots have to make do with men’s suit for new as a few adjustments have yet to be made.
The new uniforms are the work of couturier Mart Visser who told AD “he knows the curves of the Dutch hip and breast like no one else”.
“I want the stewardess to radiate the impression that they have everything under control,” explained Visser.
Trouw describes the new look as expressing “authority, safety and calm in the midst of turbulence”.
There is a more practical side to things, however. One stewardess said in AD: “It’s often so cold in a skirt.”
David Doherty / Radio Netherlands Worldwide / Expatica