Dutch news in brief, Friday 6 November 2009

6th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

Dutch secret service faces torture threat for press leaks
De Telegraaf reports two former employees of the Dutch secret service AIVD were threatened with torture by AIVD interrogators.

The two suspects are accused of leaking information to De Telegraaf.

"I was threatened, intimidated, taunted, insulted and bullied,” said one of the ex-secret service people.

After listening to a recording of one interrogation, the accused’s lawyer said: “Methods were used that you would expect in a dictatorship, not a free country.”

The threats were apparently indirect but graphic, including references to waterboarding and other notorious and untraceable methods of torture. The interrogators insisted they themselves played by the book, but that “fatal accidents can happen during detention”.

Dutch MPs expressed concerned about the AIVD’s methods and its boss, Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst. The minister was recently told by the courts to exercise restraint in authorising action against journalists. De Telegraaf quotes various MPs who accused her of “arrogance” and warned that “she still has a lot of explaining to do”.

PM’s no-show over pension plans angers opposition
The government’s plans to raise the pension age from 65 to 67 hit another snag Thursday when the opposition threatened to boycott a debate on the issue unless Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Finance Minister Wouter Bos turned up.

de Volkskrant leads with “Parliament forces debate with PM”, while Trouw’s take is “Balkenende and Bos underestimate the emotions riding high in Parliament”.

The hasty note with which the PM and Finance Minister announced they wouldn’t be attending had the opposition fuming. In Nrc-next, Socialist leader Agnes Kant slammed the move as “cowardly and arrogant”; in AD GreenLeft leader Femke Halsema said it was “an embarrassing display”, while D66 leader Alexander Pechtold grumbled: “Here we have an issue of burning national importance and Balkenende is nowhere to be seen.”

Trouw notes Balkenende and Bos were well within their rights to pass on the debate, but quotes one Socialist MP as saying: “If there is a strong wish in the House, then you’d better have a very good reason for ignoring it.”

The two eventually bowed to the pressure and would be present at the debate which will be held next week.

Meanwhile, Trouw says a recent report showed only eight percent of Dutch companies think it is important to keep their staff at work over 65. NRC-next reveals that many employers and employees are unhappy with the part of the government’s plan that says people with demanding jobs should be given less demanding work after 30 years in service.

“Over half our staff is over 45 and many have been with us for over 25 years. Under the government’s plan I’d have to offer them all lighter work when they’re 48. Can you imagine? If they’re no longer allowed to wash or lift people, what are they supposed to do?” said a team leader at a home for the elderly.

Concern over swine flu shots rise after vaccination deaths
Several of Friday’s papers report on the deaths of three babies after being vaccinated against the pneumococcal pneumonia in October.

The public health watchdog RIVM has called on clinics not to use the batch of vaccine concerned pending an investigation.

The AD quotes a RIVM spokesman as saying: “Every year between five and 10 children die after a vaccination, without a link being established. But these deaths have all occurred in quick succession – reason enough for us to take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.”

The timing of the deaths coincides with the launch of the vaccination programme against the A(H1N1) Mexican flu virus where five million Dutch citizens have been called up to receive a flu jab.

AD points out that while there is no connection between the two vaccines “emotions come into play, emotions which are often stronger than the power of rational thinking … and which can turn reassuring statistics into a monstrous threat”.

The paper speaks to immunologist Ger Rijkers of Utrecht University Hospital, who warned “stopping the vaccination of babies is not an option. This vaccine prevents 300 children every year from developing life-threatening meningitis”.

The immunologist insisted “the vaccine is one of the safest I know”.

The world of anti-squatting
NRC-next explores the world of the “anti-squatter” -- people who are brought in to stay in empty buildings to prevent vandalism, dilapidation and squatting.

While it seemed like a win-win situation – the property owners get protection for their building and the home-seeker gets cheap accommodation – critics argue that anti-squatters are often forced to sign unreasonable contracts that restricts their rights to privacy.

“You can have a home or a workplace for very little money, but if you can’t cope with uncertainty … then anti-squatting is not for you,” says a spokesman for a property management company.

Anti-squatters are not official tenants and do not have tenants’ rights. As such they may be told to leave with very little notice. They also have to sign contracts preventing them from holding parties and from going on holiday without permission, as well as having to agree to inspections at any time.

The agency can also put them out on the street if they complain to the authorities.

Housing expert Professor Hugo Priemus is one of those who advocates more rights for anti-squatters especially since squatting has been made illegal.

Prince’s rude reference raises Mexican eyebrows
Friday’s papers have a chuckle at the expense of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. On the current Dutch royal visit to Mexico, he raised a few eyebrows by inadvertently slipping a Spanish expletive into an impassioned plea for the use of clean energy.

Instead of saying “a sleeping prawn is carried away on the current”, it came out as a vulgar expression “a sleeping prawn is screwed”.

AD reports while the Netherlands can fit into Mexico 50 times over, the Dutch are one of the top 10 foreign investors in the country.

“Until a few weeks ago no one here knew that there were so many Dutch companies active in Mexico, so this visit is good for our country and the economy,” said a Mexican journalist.

Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica

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