Dutch news in brief, Friday 4 September 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.
Dutch prime minister off the hook
Thursday’s parliamentary debate on deepening the Wasterschelde waterway was touted as a dramatic grilling of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
However as Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg felt unwell while answering MPs’ questions and had to leave the chamber, the proceedings were postponed. The prime minister was let off the hook, at least for the time being.
Most papers report on the drama of Verburg’s sudden indisposition.
De Volkskrant leads with the fact that, even with the early halt to proceedings, it has become clear that the government’s plans on the issue are coming apart at the seams.
In 2005, the Netherlands reached an agreement with Belgium to enlarge the Westerschelde so that larger ships can sail dock at the Belgian port of Antwerp.
As the works will damage the environmentally important wetlands, the Dutch agreed to re-flood land reclaimed years ago from the sea.
However, as there has been major local opposition to the plan, the government in April promised to run feasibility studies into alternatives to returning the land to the sea.
However, Trouw reports Verburg told MPs Thursday the investigations had not yet begun.
A Labour member summed up the impatient mood of MPs: “The Westerschelde must be deepened; the environment must be repaired and this must be done within the time agreed with Belgium”.
The debate will be resumed in a week.
Painful sacrifices to set economy right
Nrc.next reports a speech Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende gave at Tilburg University in which he warned that raising the pensionable age was just the first of the “painful sacrifices” needed to balance the government’s books.
With public spending set to outstrip receipts by EUR 38 billion next year, he said the next decade’s debate would be about the “structural changes” necessary to tackle the budget deficit.
De Telegraaf prefers to shock its mass readership with speculation on what those painful sacrifices might be. “Taxes on high earners to go up” reads its headline.
The paper says the Labour Party, a member of the ruling coalition, is pushing for the top rate of tax to be increased to 60 percent. This would be imposed on people earning more than the watershed ‘Balkenende norm’ of EUR 181,000 per year, the amount earned by the PM.
Top Dutch architect in major fraud case
De Volkskrant reports that celebrated Dutch architect René S is accused of corruption in a major fraud case that involves real estate owned by the Philips pension fund and the property company, Rabo Bouwfonds.
René S, who lives in the United States, was detained at Schiphol Airport earlier this year, He has apparently admitted money laundering to the tune of millions of euros via companies in Great Britain and Spain.
The paper says S, known for his high-rise buildings, including the Eurocentre tower, is the first Dutch architect to be a suspect in a major fraud case.
Only two winter holidays this year
The AD covers research showing that we are economising on winter holidays.
Dutch consumers are taking shorter winter breaks, spending less on food and drink, booking cheaper accommodation and even, shocking this, staying at home through the dark winter months.
People who were hitting the pistes two or three times a year, nearly 10 percent of winter sports trippers, are cutting one visit out.
However a spokesman for the travel industry remains upbeat, hoping that people are waiting for good deals.
“We’re counting on lots of last-minute travellers,” he said.
High-speed trains near-miss
De Telegraaf reports a near-miss on the Dutch railways on We Wednesday evening west of Schiphol Airport.
Passengers on the intercity from The Hague were almost thrown from their seats when the train braked suddenly and reversed. Shortly afterwards, the high-speed train from Rotterdam rattled past.
“I was terrified,” admitted one passenger. “I thought I’d be travelling quietly by train but, before you know it, something like this happens.”
The paper reports that trains are not allowed to reverse.
Dutch Rail denies that the intercity went through a red light but has promised to investigate the incident.
“But that will take more than 24 hours,” said a spokesman.
Radio Netherlands / Mike Wilcox / Expatica