Dutch news in brief, Friday 24 October 2008

24th October 2008, Comments 0 comments

Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

24 October 2008

Two Dutch mayors close down coffee-shops in towns
The decision by two Dutch mayors to close down all the coffee-shops that sell soft-drugs in their towns receives widespread coverage in today's Dutch papers.

"Tolerance goes up in smoke" is the headline in nrc.next, referring to the traditional Dutch drugs policy of turning a blind eye when it comes to the limited sale and use of soft drugs.

At a national level, repressive measures are nowhere to be seen, but in the southern border towns of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom they have had enough of the drugs tourists pouring in from Belgium and France and the problems they cause.

"What else can we do? Deploy even more police to deal with the problems?" asks the exasperated Mayor of Roosendaal.

Roosendaal mayor and his counterpart in Bergen op Zoom have decided it's curtains for all eight coffee-shops, from the Yellow Moon in Roosendaal to the Kinky Corner in Bergen.

"We plan to take the law as far as it can go" he explains, describing his decision as "pragmatic" not "ideological". "Coffee shop owners don't have a right to earn a living selling soft drugs. They should be grateful that we've been turning a blind eye all these years."

Until they can actually close the premises, the authorities have introduced a range of measures, from restricting opening hours and limiting the amount of drugs on the premises to increasing fines for offenders.

The staff of the coffee shops in question are, needless to say, unimpressed by the news.

"The people causing the problems are the dealers," says one "and once the shops are closed, you'll see that more people buy from them."

Another points to his customers and says "Look around. These guys don't want any hassle. They just want to kick back and relax after work."

Shrinking pensions
Today’s papers focus on the effect that the credit crunch is having on pensions. Trouw's two-page spread features an elderly couple sitting proudly atop gleaming new motor scooters, but the caption below warns that they'll probably have less money to spend in future.

On Thursday, the pension funds announced that their financial reserves had shrunk due to the financial crisis, with many falling below the security threshold set by the Dutch central bank.

There's no need to panic, though, according to financial expert Theo Nijman of Tilburg University.

"People's pensions are not in danger," he reassures us. "Thankfully we're not as vulnerable as the US, where people have already seen 30 to 40 percent of their old age provisions evaporate."

But he warns "it's inevitable that the pension funds will not be able to increase their payments in line with the rising cost of living over the coming years".

Dutch MPs up in arms over Bonaire property
Trouw reports of the scene of angry exchanges in the Dutch Parliament on Thursday under the headline: "House furious at unfounded accusations".

Hero Brinkman of the right-wing Freedom Party unleashed the fury of his colleagues with insinuations that "various government ministers" had done a bit of insider trading by investing in property on Bonaire. The Caribbean island is currently part of the Netherlands Antilles but will soon have even closer ties with the Netherlands, a change that is widely expected to be good for the local housing market.

Brinkman's refusal to name names irked his fellow MPs. "Either you retract your accusation or you support it!" cried D66 Democrat leader Alexander Pechthold. "Substantiate your words or swallow them!" demanded Socialist MP Ronald van Raak.

In the end it all turned out to be "a storm in a teacup" as one MP put it. It transpires that one cabinet member, Transport Minister Camile Eurlings, has a holiday home on Bonaire, which he bought long after the decision on the island's future was taken. This revelation caused tempers to flare even more and earned Brinkman the title "Gutless wonder full of hot air" from one MP.

De Volkskrant bemoans the fact that amid all this hullabaloo, more serious issues about the Netherlands' relations with its former colonies got snowed under.

De Telegraaf meanwhile, helpfully informs its readers that they can rent the Transport Minister's holiday villa - which rejoices in the name Casa el Tropico Sabadeco - for USD 275 a day, complete with swimming pool and tropical garden.

Ex-Miss Universe Netherlands entertains troops in Afghanistan
De Telegraaf reports on efforts to boost morale among the Dutch troops stationed in Afghanistan ... with a visit from beauty queen Kim Kötter, the former Miss Universe Netherlands.

"Kim has a blast in Uruzgan" is the headline, and the blonde bombshell certainly looks like she's enjoying herself as she brandishes one lucky soldier's automatic weapon in the accompanying photo.

"What an experience!" she enthuses. "We were given a film star's welcome. We must have had our photos taken with around 1,500 men. They even had us signing their sniper guns... In the evenings it was one big party. For the Afghans too. After all, they never get to party, especially not with women around."

[Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica]

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