Dutch news in brief, Friday 29 August 2008

29th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

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

29 August 2008

VVD's Marc Rutte combats tumbling polls
VVD's mild-mannered leader Marc Rutte’s attempts to revive the fortunes of his ailing party were covered in all of today’s papers.  

Ever since prominent VVD members Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk left to launch their own right-wing populist parties, the VVD has been tumbling in the polls.

Rutte has decided the answer is to rewrite the party's founding principles and to come out fighting. "This is a call to arms!" he exclaims in the NRC Handelsblad.

So what's he promising the Dutch people?
Well, it would seem less is more at the dawn of a new age for the VVD. "We're not about to say: you have a problem, let us solve it. What I say is: you have to solve it yourself." He's not a fan of piling on the regulations as soon as anything goes wrong.

As he sees it, the 200 people bopping around on a wooden staircase that gave way during an open-air concert should have known better. And the people who collapsed in the heat during a walking event last year should have taken better care of themselves.

Trouw sums it up: "If you want a state that guarantees your absolute safety, don't vote for the VVD." The party can only hope that Dutch voters are in a risk-taking mood come the next elections.

EUR 35m painting re-examined
The Mondriaan's Victory Boogie Woogie, bought by the Dutch state for EUR 35 million back in 1998, is back in the news.

The purchase of the 64-year-old painting was widely criticised because the painting wasn't even finished. It has now been subject to extensive analysis which looks set to provide lots of good reasons for the purchase.

Teachers demand higher salary as school starts
The harassed parent on the cover of nrc-next heralds the start of the new school year. De Volkskrant reports teachers are becoming much more assertive at the negotiating table now they know they are in short supply.

As one headmaster sighs: "Until a few years ago, no one even mentioned salary at an interview ... but now they're all at it. There are those who say ... sure I'll come and work for you but only if you put me in the highest pay scale."

Another headmaster describes how another school tried to headhunt his classical studies teacher with tales of financial benefits. One school that proudly announces "we don't play these kinds of games" is forced to admit they still have a few vacancies to fill as the school year gets under way.

This presents opportunities for teachers who are not fully qualified. One teacher is giving classes in the classics on the basis of nothing more than his own secondary school qualifications.

Trouw has more encouraging news, however, reporting that "Teachers from outside don't abandon education". It seems that people who switch to teaching from another profession are sticking with it, defying the assumption that they will leave the classroom as soon as they can get a better job elsewhere. The paper quotes a recent study which has found that "no more than around 10 percent of those who transferred to teaching have abandoned the classroom".

Eveline Herfkens to work for free for one year
Someone facing a significant pay cut this year is former Development Cooperation Minister Eveline Herfkens who has announced that for one year she will work for the United Nations for the symbolic sum of just one dollar. Her gesture is the upshot of a scandal in which she received funds from the Dutch government towards her accommodation in New York, against the rules of the UN. Her refusal to pay the money back caused something of a stink.

"As far as I'm concerned, the case is now closed" says Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen in de Volkskrant, admitting that legal action to recover the money would have been pointless since Herfkens "has done nothing illegal".

Not everyone agrees, however. The paper quotes one irate VVD MP who says "Every Dutch person who wrongfully receives a subsidy should be made to pay back every penny with interest" while a Socialist MP interprets the former minister's willingness to work for nothing as "an indirect admission of guilt".

De Telegraaf's editorial lambasts everyone concerned. "It's a typical wishy-washy political deal: everyone is responsible so no one is guilty." The paper goes on "That sum of EUR 190,000 was forked out by the Dutch taxpayers. And how exactly do they benefit from having Herfkens doing a spot of charity work in the bureaucratic jungle of the UN?"

Pole dancing gathers popularity
After all this indignation, the AD has a resounding success story to round things off: pole dancing looks set to take over the country.

The waiting lists at the Netherlands' one and only official Pole Dancing Academy are so long that it is now branching out from Rotterdam to open two new branches in Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Since it's foundation in 2003, the school has taught thousands of women to "master the 45 basic moves in this cross between go-go dancing and gymnastics".

The organisers are quick to reassure us that all these women are not being lured into a life of debauchery on the nightclub scene. "It's just about getting fit, but in high heels. Lots of women think it's a fun combination."

There are not many men in the classes though, "only the odd transvestite looking to spice up their act a bit."

[Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica]

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